Birth Registers From Historically Endangered Georgia Nursing Home For Expectant African American Mothers Now Available Freely Online

The Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home in Camilla, Georgia, and the Digital Library of Georgia have worked together to digitize and present online the birth registers of the mothers and babies born at the Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home between 1949-1971. 

This nursing home, located at the home of state-certified midwife Mrs. Beatrice (“Miss Bea”) Borders (1892–1971), was the first and only professional birthing center in the rural South where African American women were allowed by local doctors to receive midwife delivery for their newborns during segregation, Jim Crow depression, and medical deprivation in the 20th century. 

“Miss Bea” and her assistants oversaw over 6,000 births and provided a safe place for African American mothers who had nowhere else to go.

These birth records were recorded in mid-century composition notebooks and contain essential genealogical information. 

Depending on the volume, some entries include the mother’s name, the date she entered the facility, the time of the birth, the baby’s weight, the baby’s gender, and whether there were any complications such as stillbirths. Some entries include additional genealogical information such as occupation, age, and address, birthplace, number of children in the family, and the name of the father.

Melissa Jest, program coordinator for African American Programs at the Georgia Historic Preservation division of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs says: 

“The digitization and cataloging of the records from this Black-owned/operated business present an opportunity for students and researchers to learn about this historically significant place and the people who entered its doors. 

It is our hope that this project will bring awareness to Mrs. Borders and will build support for the physical preservation of where she did her work.

The Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home in Camilla, Georgia survives as a very rare example of a professional birthing center run by Mrs. Borders, a state-certified midwife.  Increased access to the business records and related documents generated between 1941 and 1971 will assist hundreds of people researching their genealogy and roots in Mitchell County, Georgia.”

View the entire collection online

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About the Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011 and named one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2021, the Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home in Camilla, Georgia was the private residence and nursing center for a third-generation African American midwife Beatrice Borders (1892-1971), in Camilla, Georgia who provided safe, patient-focused health care for expectant African American mothers during segregation in the 20th century. Learn more at beasbabies.org.  

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 by developing, maintaining, and preserving 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

Selected images from the collection:

Image courtesy of Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home
Title : Book O, 1957 Deliveries
https://dlg.usg.edu/record/gwnh_gwnh_book-o-1957 
Description: Birth register completed by Beatrice Borders, an African American state-certified midwife who established the Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home in Camilla, Georgia, a professional birthing center that served African American women during segregation in the twentieth century. This register accounts for 26 deliveries that took place in 1957. It also lists the “Ga. B. Williams Nursing Home” street address at 176 Dyer Street, Camilla, Georgia.

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Civil rights-era issues of Savannah’s leading African American newspaper, the Savannah Tribune, are now available freely online

The Digital Library of Georgia, in partnership with Live Oak Public Libraries, has made the Savannah Tribune (1943 to 1960) available for viewing at the Georgia Historic Newspapers website. The site provides access to these newspapers with full-text searching, browsing by date and title, and is compatible with all current browsers. The newspaper page images can be viewed without the use of plug-ins or additional software downloads. The archive is free and open for public use.

Funding for the digitization of this title was provided by the Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council with funds awarded to the University of Georgia Libraries and the Georgia Archives by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Founded as the Colored Tribune in 1875 and renamed the Savannah Tribune in 1876, the newspaper has served as one of the longest-running African American publications in the South, with a mission “to promote the cause of education, cooperating with all teachers and workers in that cause, and the moral and material advancement of the colored people.” Reporting from Reconstruction through Jim Crow, the paper featured famed Harlem Renaissance writer James Weldon Johnson as a correspondent from the 1920s to the late 1930s and played an instrumental role in the boycott movement that began in the early 20th century and fueled the Civil Rights Movement throughout the 1960s. To this day, the Savannah Tribune stands as one of the most prominent African American newspapers in the country as it continues to serve Chatham County’s African American community. 

Belle Reynoso, the director of information technology, and Linda Bridges, the genealogy/reference librarian at Live Oak Public Libraries say: “We chose the Savannah Tribune because it’s one of Savannah’s most important African American historical resources. The first edition of the paper, which was called the Colored Tribune, was first published in 1875. It was not published from 1878 to 1886 or from 1960 to 1973. The issues chosen for digitization, October 1943 to September 1960, include much of the developing Civil Rights Movement in Georgia and beyond.

View the entire digitized run of the Savannah Tribune

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About the Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council (GHRAC)

The Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council (GHRAC) promotes the educational use of Georgia’s documentary heritage by all its citizens, evaluates and improves the condition of records, encourages statewide planning for preservation and access to Georgia’s historical records, and advises the Board of Regents and the Georgia Archives on issues concerning records. 

Learn more at georgiaarchives.org/ghrac.

About the Live Oak Public Libraries

Established in 1903, the Live Oak Public Libraries are a consortium of sixteen public libraries in the Savannah and the Hinesville-Fort Stewart metropolitan areas of Georgia. These libraries provide excellent, responsive services for residents of Chatham, Effingham, and Liberty counties, and develop programming that enriches people’s lives, supports lifelong learning, and builds and enhances their communities. 

Learn more at liveoakpl.org/about/mission

About the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC)

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a statutory body affiliated with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), supports a wide range of activities to preserve, publish, and encourage the use of documentary sources, created in every medium ranging from quill pen to computer, relating to the history of the United States.

Learn more at archives.gov/nhprc/about

Selected images from the collection: 

Image courtesy of Georgia Historic Newspapers
Title : Savannah Tribune, May 20, 1954, page 1
URL : https://gahistoricnewspapers.galileo.usg.edu/lccn/sn84020323/1954-05-20/ed-1/seq-1/
Description: The May 20, 1954 front page of the Savannah Tribune reported on the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that ruled the segregation of public schools in the United States unconstitutional.
Image Courtesy of Georgia Historic Newspapers
Title : Savannah Tribune, May 25, 1957, page 1
URL : https://gahistoricnewspapers.galileo.usg.edu/lccn/sn84020323/1957-05-25/ed-1/seq-1/
Description: The headline of the May 25, 1957 issue of the Savannah Tribune detailed the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The event closed with Martin Luther King Jr.’s famed “I Have a Dream” speech.
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