Tag Archives: South Georgia African-American History & Culture
Celebrating its sesquicentennial this year, New Hope A. M. E. Church was founded by former slaves on 4 August 1869. It’s the oldest black church in Guyton and among the oldest A. M. E. congregations in Southeast Georgia. The original members, mostly the families of carpenters, farmers, turpentiners, and millers, had been members of Methodist churches and sought to build a congregation and community. The neighborhood came to be known as Sugar Hill.
I had the good fortune of meeting Mrs. Pearl Powell Boynes, who graciously invited me inside the church with my camera. She was a delightful lady who has a background in history and great reverence for her ancestors’ contributions to New Hope. The above photo of her great-grandparents, George (born 1828) and Eve McCall, graces the vestibule of the church.
Reverend W. H. Wells was the first pastor. The church was built with rough-hewn lumber joined with wood pegs and square nails. Originally, the exterior was covered with hand-carved shingles and the walls made of hog-hair and cement plaster. Some of the shingles remain on the exterior. The chandelier in the middle of the sanctuary has been a prominent feature since around the turn of the century. It was originally gas-powered.
The hand-carved pews have been in use since the church was completed.
National Register of Historic Places
After a long history of operating substandard schools for African-Americans, Georgia began building modern schools for black students in the early 1950s. This effort to delay desegregation was a knee-jerk response to Brown v. Board of Education, and while the state spent a small fortune building these schools, desegregation was a done deal and implemented fully by the early 1970s. Many of these schools still stand throughout Georgia.
Bethany Congregational Church was built in conjunction with the Allen Normal & Industrial Institute (1885-1933), a progressive school for black children sponsored by the American Missionary Society. The Society was the missionary department of the United Church of Christ. The school had initially been established in Quitman but the white community there burned the school to the ground scarcely six weeks after its opening. The institute moved to Thomasville after this racist episode and built a new home. Bethany was built in 1891, but only the rear section visible above. The front of the church, including the steeple, was added to meet the needs of a growing congregation in 1914.
Andrew Young served as pastor here in 1955, just after graduating from Hartford Theological Seminary in Connecticut. He went on to become a seminal figure of the Civil Rights Movement, an ambassador to the United Nations, and mayor of Atlanta.
National Register of Historic Places
I’ve had a number of potential identifications for this house and restaurant but there is no consensus yet. I think it deserves documentation as an art environment, whatever it was. [NOTE: I’m still trying to confirm all of this information, so it may change at any time.]
The complex consists of two structures. The primary structure appears to be a house, which looks relatively simple from the front.
Its layout is quite whimsical, though. There are numerous rock houses and structures created by visionary and self-taught artist architects throughout the United States, most focused on religious or spiritual themes. This one appears to simply be one man’s personal vision. I’m not sure if the house and restaurant were built at the same time.
The second structure is sided with a mixture of limestone and cinderblock. Mac Moye notes that it was a restaurant for decades and that there are/were several similar limestone structures scattered around Randolph County.
It’s connected to the house by a series of arches, constructed of brick and limestone.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the restaurant structure are the two willow trees/trees of life surrounding the windows.
The property appears to be in relatively good condition but should be recognized in order to preserve it as an art environment and community landmark.