This is the first newspaper page I digitized when I began work fourteen years ago at the Digital Library of Georgia (DLG). The Macon Telegraph is the third oldest continuously published newspaper in the state and has a rich history of news coverage in middle Georgia. I particularly love the typeface used in the masthead on this first issue of the paper. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it used in any of the other eight hundred newspaper titles we’ve published. –Donnie Summerlin
As a staff member for the Georgia Newspaper Project, I had an opportunity to view bound volumes of the Louisville Gazette, and this page caught my eye because of the extra-bold columns. It was then that I learned historic newspapers used bold columns when reporting the death of prominent American figures, in this case, George Washington. Georgia’s late-18th and early-19th century newspapers fascinate me. They add a certain gravity to the state’s history, and to have a paper from Georgia’s first state capital is immensely cool. — Daniel Britt
For over a century, cartoons have been a popular feature in Georgia newspapers. This uncredited cartoon from the March 30, 1988 issue of the Flagpole is one of my favorites. The Flagpole is an alternative newspaper that self-identifies as the “Colorbearer of Athens.” The paper is treasured by those that follow the college town’s famed music scene that has included such acts as the B-52s, R. E. M., Pylon, Neutral Milk Hotel, the Drive-By Truckers, and dozens of others. Music lovers will also appreciate that this issue also includes an interview with the beloved college band Let’s Active from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and an ad for Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, scheduled to play at the University of Georgia’s Legion Field. –Donnie Summerlin
Forsyth County News, February 15, 2004
As a fan of the Beatles, I love this story about how Forsyth County resident Paul Drew introduced the Beatles before their only concert in Atlanta in 1965. Drew was the WQXI musical director in Atlanta and struck up a decades-long relationship with the Fab Four. The story printed in the Forsyth County News includes several photos of the Beatles you won’t find published anywhere else. –Donnie Summerlin
Of all the historic newspapers I have microfilmed and helped digitize, The Great Kennesaw Route Gazette’s masthead is among one of the most ornate; it’s was extremely rare for a newspaper publisher to spare no expense for such typography. The paper circulated at each of the Western and Atlantic Railroad’s twenty-two stops, and carried editorials that set it apart from all other railroad papers. When I’m feeling particularly imaginative, I like to think about what it was like to flip through the paper while waiting for my northward or southward train. — Daniel Britt
In 2018, I curated an exhibit for the University of Georgia’s Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Titled “The New South and the New Slavery: Convict Labor in Georgia,” it examined the history of forced prison labor in Georgia beginning with the inception of the convict lease system in 1868 until its abolition in 1908, its transformation into the chain gang system that lasted until the 1940s, and its continuation with mass incarceration. After speaking with the Digital Library of Georgia and the New Georgia Encyclopedia about this project, they were enthusiastic about adapting the physical exhibit into a digital one. The online exhibition, The New South and the New Slavery, is the result of this collaboration.
As a scholar who specializes in late 19th- and early 20th-century African American and American Indian literature published in the periodical press, newspapers are among the first resources I consult when exploring a particular cultural or historical moment. I heeded the same process to investigate Georgia’s convict lease and chain gang systems. Coverage from the Atlanta Georgian and News and the Athens Weekly Banner was especially insightful. Some notable stories gleaned from these publications included: a mutiny on behalf of Black and white female prisoners in Milledgeville, the flogging of a female prisoner named Mamie de Cris, coverage of a hungry Georgia resident jailed for stealing a chicken, the testimony of an assaulted female prisoner, and reports of Athens-Clarke County’s demand for incarcerated populations for road construction surrounding the University of Georgia. More than ten newspaper accounts from the original Hargrett exhibit were found in periodicals digitized by the Georgia Historic Newspapers database.
What remains little-known of Georgia’s carceral systems is the fate of orphaned children whose parents were sentenced to labor in prison camps as well as the fate of those born in these camps. After insightful conversations with colleagues and visitors who toured the Hargrett exhibit, I began researching Black-run and -owned charitable institutions in Georgia. As anyone who has spent time steeped in the archives understands, one of the excitements of this kind of research is that, in searching for one story, you are often led to another. One such welcome surprise was the story of Martha Bass Holsey (ca. 1869-unknown), an African American upholsterer from Athens, Georgia, who reached across racial barriers in the Jim Crow South to establish a charitable home that served as an orphanage as well as a daycare for working Black families.
Martha Bass Holsey was born in Georgia in 1869, just after the Civil War. She lived for a long period of time in Athens, Georgia, where she worked variously as a dressmaker, upholsterer, seamstress, housekeeper, and nurse. In Athens-Clarke County in 1906, she married Albon Holsey, where they lived on Barber Street with their four children, Augustus, Crosby, Willie, and Mary. Newspaper accounts and meeting minutes of the Athens woman’s club detail Bass Holsey’s tireless, resourceful efforts to collaborate across racial lines to build an institution for Black Athenians. The story of her activism began to unfold with a 1907 report by Mary Ann Rutherford Limpscomb in the Athens Weekly Banner, in which Lipscomb recounted Bass Holsey’s plan for the orphanage and daycare. Because the local African American women’s club lacked the necessary funds to build an orphanage, Bass Holsey in 1907 approached Lipscomb, who was then the president of the Georgia Federation of Women’s Clubs and a member of the local white Athens woman’s club. Together, they charted a plan: Bass Holsey would locate a suitable house to rent and a matron to care for the children, and Lipscomb would enlist the woman’s club to provide funds. In December that year, Bass Holsey, members of the Black community, and Lipscomb and her fellow woman’s club members gathered at the local African American Baptist Church to deliberate. The Home opened in January 1908. It was supported by both white and Black Athenians. The Home’s ongoing success was due in large part to Black residents of Athens, who regularly donated food and money.
There is much that remains unknown about Bass Holsey’s life beyond her institution-building initiatives. The death of Albon in 1913 left her widowed. While her whereabouts after his death are yet unclear, there are ample records of her two sons, Augustus (ca. 1889-1967) and Crosby (ca. 1893-1962), who served in the US military in World War I. Augustus attended Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia, before leaving school to enlist in the war, during which he served with a field artillery unit. He retired as a post office carrier in Baltimore, Maryland, and he is buried in Baltimore National Cemetery. Crosby enlisted in World War I, as well, and he served as a cook in the 365th Infantry. After the war, he worked as a railroad porter in Baltimore, where he lived with Augustus and Augustus’s wife, Estella. There are more gaps to fill with regard to the Holsey family history.
Until recently, a looming question remained: Where was the Home located? I spoke to David Mitchell, the Executive Director of the Atlanta Preservation Center, who suggested consulting Sanborn Fire Maps. Thanks to the DLG’s extensive digitized archive of Sanborn maps, the former site of the orphanage and daycare has been located in the Reese Street Historic District. The Home once stood near what is now the Athens Masonic Association, formerly Athens High and Industrial School, the first Black public high school in Georgia. Just a few blocks away from the Home would have been the Knox Institute, a Black school opened by the Freedmen’s Bureau just after the Civil War. While Bass Holsey’s Home, like the Knox Institute, no longer stands, its history is another salutary reminder of this neighborhood’s position as a rich site of early Black institution-building.
Bass Holsey’s and the Home’s story continues. Conversations, chance discoveries, and the addition of newly digitized newspapers and other records will, I hope, turn up new information. The next step? To find some way to visibly, publicly acknowledge this culturally significant site that adds yet another layer to the story of Black history and early Black activism in Athens.