New collection about pro- and anti-LGBTQ activities in Cobb County, Georgia circa 1995 are now available freely online

Image of LGBTQ+ activist, presenting male, speaking into a microphone during a press gaggle.

Pro- and anti-LGBTQ activities and demonstrations in Cobb County circa 1995 are the main component of a new digital collection belonging to Georgia State University Special Collections, funded by a competitive digitization grant awarded by the Digital Library of Georgia (DLG). GSU Special Collections received a service grant awarded in 2020 to broaden the DLG’s engagement with diverse institutions and collections across the state of Georgia. 

The Carol Brown Papers, 1993-2012 (bulk 1993-1994) document pro- and anti- LGBTQ+ activities and legislation in Cobb County, and belong to Georgia State University Special Collections’ LGBTQ Digital Collection, available at https://digitalcollections.library.gsu.edu/digital/collection/lgbtq.  

In July of 1993, in response to complaints by residents, Cobb County Chairman Bill Byrne challenged county funding for Marietta’s Theatre in the Square, particularly as two of its plays– David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly and Terrence McNally’s Lips Together, Teeth Apart — included mild gay themes. 

In August, Cobb County commissioner Gordon Wysong led the Cobb County Board of Commissioners to two anti-LGBT+ resolutions: one specifying that funding would only be provided for art that promoted “strong community, family-oriented standards,” and the other stating that “lifestyles advocated by the gay community should not be endorsed by government policymakers, because they are incompatible with the standards to which this community subscribes; and that gay lifestyle units are directly contrary to state law.” 

Marietta civic leader and activist Jon Greaves and local community members immediately responded by organizing together as the Cobb Citizens Coalition (CCC) to challenge the resolutions.

The CCC gained important allies in February 1994, when Atlanta-based activists Pat Hussain and Jon-Ivan Weaver established Olympics Out of Cobb County (OOCC). Their mission was to persuade Atlanta’s Committee for the Olympic Games not to hold the women’s volleyball competition in Cobb County as planned. Their efforts succeeded: ultimately, the women’s volleyball competition was held in Athens at the University of Georgia instead, and the Olympic torch bypassed Cobb County altogether. 

While CCC was active, CCC member and Marietta resident Carol Brown documented the organization’s activities and those of OOCC by recording protests, marches, and local news coverage, using audiocassettes, videotape, and photography. 

She also saved almost-daily newspaper reports, providing a wide range of coverage of events as they unfolded in Cobb County. The audiovisual materials have been digitized and described by the DLG as part of its service grant, and the newspaper reports were digitized in-house at Georgia State University. 

Carol Brown also recounted her personal memories in an oral history that is part of the Activist Women’s Oral History Project. Together, they provide a rich and powerful narrative about a small community’s response to local discrimination that garnered international interest. 

Carol Brown’s materials are unique and significant to Georgia because so much of Georgia’s recorded LGBTQ+ history has been Atlanta-focused. Carol Brown’s materials focus on pro-and anti- LGBTQ+ activities in traditionally conservative Cobb County. They are also important because they highlight several challenging backstories about art censorship, community protest, and the 1995 Olympic Games that garnered national and international interest. 

View the collection online

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More about the Carol Brown Papers, 1993-2012 (bulk 1993-1994) Collection

Digitization of audiovisual items from the Carol Brown Papers, 1993-2012 (bulk 1993-1994) focusing on pro-and anti- LGBTQ+ activities in traditionally conservative Cobb County and the campaign to move 1996 Olympic events out of the County. Furthermore, in a time of daily protest that we find ourselves in now, the collection illustrates the power of creative, peaceful protest.

About the Georgia State University Special Collections and Archives (Women’s/ Gender and Sexuality Collections)

The Women’s Collections chronicle women’s activism and advocacy in Georgia and the Southeast. Within this curatorial area are several notable collections: the Donna Novak Coles Georgia Women’s Movement Archives, the Lucy Hargrett Draper Collections on Women’s Rights, Advocacy and the Law, and the Archives for Research on Women. For more information, read the Women’s Collections research guides at research.library.gsu.edu/womenscollections. The Gender and Sexuality Collections document LGBTQ+ communities in Georgia and the Southeast. For more information, read the Gender and Sexuality research guide at https://research.library.gsu.edu/c.php?g=912561.

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 stills from the collection: 

Image of LGBTQ+ activist, presenting male, speaking into a microphone during a press gaggle.
Image courtesy of Georgia State University. Special Collections Title : [Press conference to announce rally on Square, June ’94. Raw footage. CD ???] Description: Still image from a video recording of a press conference held to announce a demonstration entitled “And justice for all, Cobb rally for human rights” to be held on August 28, 1993, the 30th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Leaders from three co-sponsoring organizations, the Marietta Interfaith Alliance, the Network for Social Responsibility, and the Cobb Citizens Coalition, give statements and answer questions from the press about the rally and their reasons for holding it, which is for the Cobb Commission to change or rescind an anti-LGBTQ+/anti-gay resolution negating the human rights of gay citizens of Cobb County, Georgia.
Image of civil rights activist and public intellectual Loretta Ross, seated, speaking into a microphone
Image courtesy of Georgia State University. Special Collections Title : [Stop Hate Politics seminar 11/6/1993. Meg Riley, Hans Johnson, Loretta Ross. Tape 1] Description: Still image from video recording of a portion of the “Stop Hate in Politics” seminar entitled “Righting the Wrongs of the Religious Right…Can We?” which took place on November 6, 1993. The recording presents speakers (including civil rights activist and public intellectual Loretta Ross, shown in this image) who discuss the manner in which right-wing Christian fundamentalists have weaponized their response to American liberal politics, and the importance of building common ground against violent right-wing trends.
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How I Identified The Earliest Surviving Film Footage of African American Baseball Players

Clip from a home movie of a baseball game between African American employees of the Pebble Hill and Chinquapin Plantations, Georgia, 1919?” Pebble Hill Plantation Collection, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Georgia

In 2011, we received a donation of films from Pebble Hill Plantation in Thomasville, Georgia, spanning from 1916 into the 1970s. Pebble Hill was the winter hunting retreat for the Hanna family of Cleveland, Ohio, prominent industrialists and politicians. 

One of the most important segments of all the films in the collection was 26 seconds of 28mm film showing Pebble Hill’s black baseball team playing Chinquapin Plantation’s black baseball team sometime in the 1910s or 1920s. We knew right away that this was unique footage and would be of interest to many people, so once the collection was more fully processed and the film preserved to a new substrate and digitized, we began to publicize it. An article in the New York Times on April 30, 2013, gave us worldwide publicity. 

The head of the Negro Leagues Museum then speculated that this might be the earliest footage of African Americans playing baseball. I presented the footage and spoke at the 2014 Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. My co-presenter on the panel was professor Leslie Heaphy of Kent State University, the editor of the journal Black Ball: New Research in African American Baseball History. She encouraged me to write up the story of the film and my research into dating it more precisely (to find out if it really was the earliest surviving black baseball footage) for her journal, which I was finally able to do in 2018, and volume 10 of that journal is now out with my article.

Describing my research into the film involved more than just telling my general knowledge about film after 20 years of working in a film archives. I had to document how and where I learned about the history of 28mm film, Pathéscope cameras and projectors, home movies, Pebble Hill, the baseball team, and South Georgia baseball in general. I combed Pebble Hill’s private archives, browsed books on the local history of the county, contacted colleagues at the Jack Hadley Black History Museum and the Thomasville History Center, looked into the accounts of other South Georgia plantations, explored Hanna family history in Ohio, and peppered the staff of Pebble Hill with many questions. 

Very helpfully, the Pebble Hill archives also contain Pansy Hanna Ireland Poe’s diary covering the years in question, 1915-1925, though the handwriting is challenging to read. I even needed weather reports from newspapers and climatological websites that could tell me what the weather was like at certain times of the year. Finally, I required obituaries, mentions of the hospital, and social event data.

Thankfully, the Digital Library of Georgia had already digitized many newspapers from the region (full-text searchable!). This work saved me many hours of peering at and being made dizzy and cross-eyed from reading small-print newspapers of the nineteen-teens on microfilm readers. 

The newspapers gave me a sense of what was important in the area between 1915 and 1925, visitors to the town, what the weather was like, what townsfolk were doing. To provide context to the story of this film, I was looking for any mention of regional hunting plantations, baseball teams, or games, a general sense of baseball in the area, what other teams existed, and mentions of African American ballplayers. 

One of my favorite issues of the digitized Thomasville Daily Times-Enterprise is from May 1, 1913, several days ahead of the town’s opening day of the baseball season. Almost every page in that issue contains notices from businesses in town letting everyone know that on May 5, opening day, they’d be “Closed. Gone to baseball game. Will open immediately after game.” 

The Daily times-enterprise. (Thomasville, Ga.) 1889-1925, May 01, 1913, Page 1, courtesy of Georgia Historic Newspapers

As William Warren Rogers stated in his books on Thomas County, baseball was an obsession in Thomasville. I could see that it really was a baseball-mad town. This helps explain why local plantations had baseball teams, though I have also been disappointed to see that black plantation team results of those years are rarely mentioned. Some non-plantation black team games are mentioned, though not nearly as much detail as white town teams.

I will always be looking for more information from South Georgia that will illuminate stories from Pebble Hill, and the DLG is one of my best sources.

Margaret Compton
Film Archivist
Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection

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