Georgia’s culture is rich and diverse, broadened with global influences as new groups settled within the state, brought their unique customs, and assimilated into the southeast. Experience Georgia’s literary, musical, and cultural development throughout its full, distinctive history.
Howard Finster, a visionary painter in Summerville, estimates he has created 36,000 pieces of art. He also created Paradise Garden and restored an old chapel in his backyard. Music groups like REM and the Talking Heads have even asked him to create album covers for them. His art is in the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and the High Museum in Atlanta. Joanne Cubbs, folk art curator for the High, says that while his art appears simple, there are many messages and ideas that are intriguing.
Georgia’s Chinese-American population took root when laborers came to Augusta in 1873 to dig a canal. Ellen Chiang, an instructor at the Atlanta Chinese School, explains some of the customs of one of the most festive and biggest holidays in Chinese culture - Chinese New Year.
Atlanta has come a long way since it was a quiet little town called Terminus. Today, it has become the entertainment capital of the South. From music to museums, there are literally thousands of things for locals and visitors to do.
Cherokee John Standingdeer describes how his family was named and why knowing it mattered to him. He explains how Native Americans were self sufficient and lived off the land prior to the arrival of Europeans and how a growing dependency on the white man’s steel tools and weapons led to Indians adopting the white man’s ways, eroding their culture further.
This segment shows ways in which today’s Cherokees are transmitting the remnants of their culture to the younger generation in an attempt to preserve what is left. Cherokee cultural traditions in food preparation, language, and songs and dances are shown.
The first English colonists faced a wilderness plagued by insects, heat, and disease. Of the original 144 colonists, nearly one in three died. Wormsloe Plantation near Savannah presents a recreation of the colonists’ way of life with demonstrations of the skills needed to face the challenges of settling the new colony.
Arriving from the highlands of Scotland, one group of settlers came to help defend Georgia from Spanish invaders and to make a new home for themselves. A reenactor portrays Scottish colonists that shared many characteristics with the Native Americans.
Rabbi R. A. Belzer tells the story of the arrival of Georgia’s first Jewish settlers. The city of Savannah can boast that it is the home of Congregation Mickve Israel, Georgia’s oldest Jewish congregation and the third oldest in the country.
Just a short ferry boat ride away from the Georgia coast lies Hog Hammock, an African-American community on Sapelo Island with cultural traditions that tie it to Africa. Cornelia Bailey, a descendant of slaves who worked the plantations on Sapelo, imagines the terrible sadness her ancestors felt knowing they were so far away from home with no way to return. Today the residents of Hog Hammock are recognized for the African cultural traditions they pass on, such as making baskets, cast nets, and the unique music of the Sea Island Singers.
Norman and Nancy Blake and James Bryan play American string music and talk about it as the main form of entertainment at the turn of the century. Charles Wolfe, a music historian, describes how songs were a way of telling stories and spreading the news. From country music records to the evolution of slave songs into blues music, the history of southern music traced.
Sue Ellen Mears, with the DeKalb Historical Society, comments on Atlanta's change from rural to urban through the lens of Bill Suits, owner of A to Z Salvage in Decatur, who wished to bring Rufus, his 7 month-old, 50 pound potbellied pig to work.
During the 1950s, Georgia was in many ways a study of contrasts. Much of the state retained its rural character, with people leading lives that had strong links to earlier decades. At the same time, Atlanta was beginning its great growth, with the first segments of the interstate system being constructed, television sets being installed in many homes, and the first major shopping center being built.
Before the Braves professional baseball team moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966, the minor league Atlanta Crackers were the talk of the South. Crackers radio announcer Hank Morgan explains the allure of the baseball park during the time period. Former players explain what playing for the team meant for them and for the city.
Albany native Rutha Mae Harris recalls life in the segregated town of Albany. In 1961 activists like African-American activists like Harris and Charles Sherood organized marches in the streets and were arrested for it. They protested those arrests and when they were not protesting, they were in churches organizing and planning. Harris explains how Albany churches were filled with people singing about freedom and how singing empowered her.
Korey Gotoo, an artist born in Mexico, and Lisabet Sanchez, who lives in Cumming with her mother Amalia, discuss the special altars they prepare for The Day of the Dead, a cultural expression of Mexican heritage. Many people join in the Day of the Dead celebration at Atlanta’s Mexican Cultural Center on November 1–2.
Amy Lebey, the Salzburger historian, tells why Lutherans moved from Salzburg, Austria to the Georgia colony in the 1700s. Georgia was very different from Salzburg, and it took a lot of adjusting to make their home in New Ebenezer, Georgia. The church they built still stands today.
Florence Fleming Corley at Kennesaw State College, Tena Roberts, the archivist at Wesleyan College, and Gena Franklin, vice president of Wesleyan, report on the idea of a higher education for women in the 1800s. While boys and girls were taught the same basic skills, girls quit school sooner to learn homemaking skills. People actually believed that too much education was bad for women’s health.
Coca-Cola archivist Phil Mooney and Rick Allen, author of Secret Formula, a history of Coke, comment on Coca-Cola's early history and its rise to become a seminal part of American culture.
Robert Herman, Executive Director of the Morton Theatre, comments on the life and legacy of Monroe Bowers "Pink" Morton, who built the Morton Theater in 1910, served as a postmaster, published two newspapers and owned 30 buildings in the Athens area. The center of Morton's empire was the Morton Building, which became the center of African-American business and entertainment in Athens at the turn of the century.
Marcus Bartlett, a retired executive vice president for Cox Communications; Elmo Ellis, retired vice president of WSB; and Allan Macleod of the College of Journalism at the University of Georgia discuss Atlanta’s WSB (for “Welcome South, Brother”) radio station, the first to broadcast in the South.
Horace Hampton, a former Depression-era hobo, recounts his experiences of life on the road. W. P. Scott, retired University of Georgia professor, also comments on the challenging history of seeking work in America.
Television changed the way Americans entertained themselves. Baby boom generation members Steve Oliver and Sarah Fountain and University of Georgia’s College of Journalism professor Dr. Allison Alexander describe life before television when they played outside, read books, listened to the radio, or played board games. Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta contends that without television, the Civil Rights Movement would have been like a bird without wings. Barry Sherman, in the University of Georgia’s College of Journalism, notes that television made the Vietnam War more personal.
For many people, the cost of housing continually exceeds their income. In 1973, one man decided to do something about this situation. Millard Fuller, a self-made millionaire, went to Africa where he helped poor people build homes. Upon his return from Africa, Fuller founded Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization that has grown to become one of the largest homebuilders in the nation. Mattie and Silas Allen and Valerie Ferguson, Habitat homeowners, discuss what their houses have meant to them.
Famous for her classic novel Gone with the Wind, Peggy Mitchell had been rebellious in her youth, choosing not to finish college and acting less than modestly in Atlanta society. While working as a reporter, she spent three years writing her novel. the work sold millions of copies, was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize. As Mitchell retreated from stardom she advanced a progressive agenda from behind the scenes, helping to integrate Atlanta's police, supported the building of both black and white emergency clinics, and patronized African-American medical students who hadn't the means to afford schooling.