Urban planning, civil rights, and trends in landscape design in Savannah are highlighted in the newest collection available from the Digital Library of Georgia

5600PC-10, Minutes of the Park and Tree Commission, Volume 1, page 60 (page 72 of digitized item), November 9, 1896

In partnership with The City of Savannah Municipal Archives, the Digital Library of Georgia has just made the minutes of the Park and Tree Commission 1896-1929 available freely online.  

The historical significance of the collection may not be obvious at first, but Luciana Spracher, director for the City of Savannah Municipal Archives, describes its importance to contemporary research: 

“While on the surface the Park and Tree Commission Minutes might seem mundane, upon closer inspection they contain important information that reflects the intersections of urban planning and civil rights, trends in landscape design, development of Savannah’s cemeteries (both African American and white, since Savannah’s cemeteries were originally segregated), and details such as the use of convict labor in city infrastructure projects; all topics that draw on current socio-political trends and that are largely underrepresented in scholarship.”  

She adds:  

“Minutes from the early 20th-century discuss issues surrounding segregation of public facilities, such as public pools and park benches. These records offer insider perspectives into the decision-making process related to these Jim Crow-era policies that are not often found in governmental records.” 

Spracher also describes the importance of digitizing the collection for accessibility:  

“Currently this collection is underutilized by researchers because it is available only on site in our research facility in Savannah and is often overlooked as researchers are likely to believe it contains information limited to topics such as tree planting, parks and playgrounds. By digitizing the collection and sharing it through the Digital Library of Georgia (and thereby through the Digital Public Library of America), it will become more widely accessible to researchers in broad geographic locations.” 

Daves Rossell, professor of architectural history at the Savannah College of Art and Design 

adds:  “Having a doctorate in American architectural and urban history, with a specialty in vernacular architecture and cultural landscape, I have had call to use the Municipal Archives on many occasions, including in preparation for historic district nominations, historic landscape recordation, and a variety of research on individual buildings. Without the Park and Tree Commission’s records, such fundamental aspects of our civic heritage would be as good as lost. The Park and Tree Commission records are among the most diverse and valuable resources available on many such topics.” 

Link to featured images:  

Title: 5600PC-10, Minutes of the Park and Tree Commission, Volume 1, page 60 (page 72 of digitized item), November 9, 1896 

On November 9, 1896, the Park and Tree Commission minutes cover a range of topics including the sidewalk in Colonial Park Cemetery, the use of convict labor in parks and squares, working with Public Schools to interest children in plants, photographs taken by John C. Olmstead, and the replacement of trees after storm damage. 
Minutes of the Park and Tree Commission, Volume 1, page 60 (page 72 of digitized item), November 9, 1896
Title: 5600PC-10, Minutes of the Park and Tree Commission, Volume 2, page 370 (page 374 of digitized item) October 6, 1919 
Description:  On October 6, 1919, the Park and Tree Commission minutes cover topics including the prohibition of “negroes” from Laurel Grove North Cemetery and a requirement of a photograph for “negro servants” allowed to care for lots, as well as the use of Emmet Park or Franklin Square for a Naval Radio Station. 

About the City of Savannah Municipal Archives  

The City of Savannah Municipal Archives collects, manages, preserves, and makes accessible records documenting the City of Savannah’s history; administers the records management program and the City Records Center to increase the efficiency of City agencies; and shares the City’s history with City employees, citizens, and visitors through outreach activities. The Municipal Archives services reference requests from researchers and the general public which relate to archival and historical City records under its administration in the City Records Center, and shares the City’s history through a variety of public outreach activities, including tours of City Hall, permanent and rotating exhibits, and special programs. Discover the Archives at www.savannahga.gov/MunicipalArchives.   

About the Digital Library of Georgia 

Based at the University of Georgia Libraries, the Digital Library of Georgia is a GALILEO initiative that collaborates with Georgia’s libraries, archives, museums, and other institutions of education and culture to provide access to key information resources on Georgia history, culture, and life. This primary mission is accomplished through the ongoing development, maintenance, and preservation of digital collections and online digital library resources. DLG also serves as Georgia’s service hub for the Digital Public Library of America and as the home of the Georgia Newspaper Project, the state’s historic newspaper microfilming project.  

Visit the DLG at dlg.usg.edu

Facebook: http://facebook.com/DigitalLibraryofGeorgia/  

Twitter: @DigLibGA 


How I Built A Funeral Program Collection for African Americans in Atlanta

Funeral program for Mr. Stanley Maddox

It all began with a one-sided friendly competitive thought – if Augusta could do it, so could Atlanta.  

This immediately came to mind after reading an article in Georgia Library Quarterly written in 2009 by Dottie Demarest, then the genealogy and local history librarian at the East Central Georgia Regional System (now the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library), about the Eula M. Ramsey Johnson Memorial Funeral Program Collection. 

In the article, Ms. Demarest spoke about how a single donation from Gloria Ramsey Lucas, the niece of Eula Johnson, of nearly 200 programs in 2005 became the beginning of the Library’s African American Funeral Program Collection.  The collection has since grown to more than 1500 programs dating back to the 1930s. After reading the article, I was excited that such a collection existed and had been digitized and made available through the Digital Library of Georgia (DLG). I was also inspired, knowing that we, the royal we, could create a similar collection in Atlanta.   

Funeral services for Miss Lucy Craft Laney, Thursday, October 26, 1933, 3:00 p.m., McGregor Hall. Lucy Craft Laney is Georgia’s most famous female African American educator. This is the oldest funeral program in the Eula M. Ramsey Johnson Memorial Funeral Program Collection, from which the African American funeral programs from the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System collection is based.

It was then that the African American Funeral Program Project, as I call it, was born.   

The goals for the project were to collect African American funeral programs and donate them to the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History where they would be preserved, and people would have access to them for many years to come.  The goal for the programs was to have them digitized and added to DLG and in May 2020, that dream became a reality.  Now, several thousand funeral programs collected and housed at the Auburn Avenue Research Library are available for everyone to see.  What started as a friendly competitive thought has now become another resource for researchers as well as scholars (I am one of the latter) who are interested in the individuals and local communities represented in the individual documents. The Atlanta funeral programs collection could possibly provide the information needed by a family historian (like myself) working to piece together their family’s story.  This collection will always mean a lot to me, not only because I helped to start it but also because members of my own family are featured in the collection.  My uncle Stanley Maddox, whom I never got a chance to meet, passed away as a child.  A press release for the collection happened a day after the 50th anniversary of his death and I thought what a fitting way to commemorate that day.   

Funeral Services for Mr. Stanley Maddox, Second Mount Vernon Baptist Church, Markham Street at Northside Drive, Monday, June 1, 1970, 2:00 P.M., George W. Baker, Officiating. Stanley Maddox is the author’s late uncle.

The work continues, as there are more programs to process and to collect.  

I hope that others will be inspired by this collection and create one in their own area.   

If you cannot start a collection, check your local area or your ancestral research area to see if a collection already exists and contact them to see if they are taking donations.   

As for digitized collections, in additional to the Atlanta collection, there are a few more African American funeral program collections in Georgia, including the Willow Hill Heritage and Renaissance Center Digital Archive collection at Georgia Southern University, the African American funeral programs from the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System and Funeral programs from the Thomas County Public Library System collections, both of which are available through DLG.   

–Tamika Strong

Reference Archivist, Georgia Archives

Wesley Chapel Genealogy and Historical Research Group