The stories of prominent people in Augusta's black history came to life Saturday during a living history re-enactment at Cedar Grove Cemetery.
The re-enactment was organized in recognition of Black History Month. It was the first time historical tours had been held at the cemetery, said Dr. Audie Holmes, a history professor at Paine College.
"When I was on a tour of another cemetery here in Augusta, I figured if they can do it for that cemetery they should be able to do it for Cedar Grove, but no one had ever tried it before," he said. "I saw it as a great opportunity, so I got with my Paine College students in the history club and we decided to try it."
The students acted as tour guides and took the roles of people buried in the cemetery, including the Rev. William White, the founder of the Augusta Baptist Institute, which became Morehouse College; Walter Hornsby, who was president and one of six founders of Pilgrim Health and Life Insurance Co.; Amanda Dickson Toomer, who became the richest black woman in the U.S. after the death of her father, David Dickson, a plantation owner; and Dr. Thomas Walter Josey, a physician and community leader and the person for whom T.W. Josey High School is named.
"We want people to walk away with a better understanding that African-Americans were very active in the community in the 1800s and 1900s," Holmes said. "They were very well-respected by both black and white."
Jackie Williams was among about 30 people who took the first tour. Several tours were held during the day.
"I learned a lot about history, and they kept it interesting," she said.
Peter and Tricia Hughes also participated in the tour. It was an opportunity to get a deeper look into Augusta's history, they said.
"I have seen some of the other places in town, and I feel that if you've seen one place you'll want to see this one as well," Peter Hughes said. "Augusta is rich with history, and you can learn so much about the people who lived here from these cemeteries."
Tricia Hughes agreed.
"It's great to be able to connect people who are buried here with institutions in Augusta," she said. "A lot of people buried here made an impact in Augusta. I hope that schoolchildren can come, experience this and learn about the people buried here."
The event was sponsored by Paine College and its history club, a grant from the National Education Association, the Georgia Association of Educators, the Student National Education Association-Paine College and Augusta-Richmond County Public Services.