Originally created 08/24/04

Book details history of blacks in Augusta



History is truth, and local historian Sean Joiner said pictures often capture those truths as well as any words can.

"You can read a written history of something, but photographs have more of an impact. With them you can read into the story more. It's like the old commercial says 'A picture is worth a thousand words,'" he said.

In his book, Black America Series: Augusta, Georgia, a pictorial history co-written by local historian Gerald Smith, Mr. Joiner said the images speak volumes.

Mr. Joiner and Dr. Smith will speak about the book at 5:30 p.m. today at the Augusta Museum of History.

Whether it's photographs of church ushers dressed in white or chain-gang members in black-and-white stripes, the book looks at the people, places, institutions and culture of black Augustans from the city's beginnings until the mid-1950s.

"From the earliest records writing and photographs, African-Americans have built this community just as much as any other group of people, they have some of the richest history here," Mr. Joiner said.

Unfortunately, not a lot of the history is collected in book form, said Dr. Smith, a retired Paine College professor.

"It's a rich heritage that hasn't been explored as fully as it should be," he said. "The African-American experience in this area is just unbelievable. It's more involved in the history of the CSRA and Augusta more than is known."

Attempting to shed light on the contributions and lifestyles of the city's black residents, Mr. Joiner said, he and Dr. Smith looked through private and Augusta Museum of History collections to find photos and write captions.

"There was a lot of research involved," he said. "And we found some interesting stories that no one really knew about when doing this."

Included in the images are the papers listing the city's first black firefighters - freed men who worked with the German brigade - who had equipment and payroll information written in ledger notes from 1853, Mr. Joiner said.

The book also contains some ambrotype photos of families - rare finds considering that the photography method would be expensive to many residents during those times, Dr. Smith said.

Despite being a good start to compiling the history of the area's black residents, Augusta should be only the beginning, Dr. Smith said.

"There's so much more out here; this is just a tip of the iceberg. The story should be told completely," he said, even if it comes from unlikely sources, such as him and Mr. Joiner.

"Why would two white guys do a book on black history?" Dr. Smith said. "Because both of us were very interested in history, period. And history is color blind; we're all bound up in it."

Black America Series: Augusta, Georgia is available at stores for $19.99.

Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or kamille.bostick@augustachronicle.com.

Book-Signing

What: Book-signing and lecture for the Black America Series: Augusta, GeorgiaWhen: 5:30 p.m. today

Where: Augusta Museum of History, 506 Reynolds St.