The period encompassing the decades before the Civil War shows two distinctly American societies diverging both economically and ideologically. As the North grew into an industrial powerhouse, it continued to benefit from the South’s primarily agrarian system, built on a foundation of forced labor. These profoundly different cultures and perspectives would eventually clash in the War Between the States.
Savannah tour guide Ogbanna explains the Underground Railroad and the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, established in 1773. Murry Dorty of the Coastal Heritage Society explains how songs had hidden meanings to help and inspire runaways along the way.
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.
Explained by Dr. John Inscoe of the New Georgia Encyclopedia and Dr. Barbara McCaskill, William and Ellen Craft's daring escape from slavery involved Ellen Craft posing as a white slaveholder with her light skin and William posing as her body servant. Their perilous journey took them through major east coast cities north to Philadelphia then Boston. After escaping to freedom, they traveled widely in the United States as abolitionists.
In the early 1800s there were no reliable means of transportation. Waterways were the easiest routes and most of Georgia’s larger cities grew up along rivers. Michelle Gillespie at Agnes Scott College and Lesa Campbell of the Southeastern Railway Museum explain how it took the steam powered locomotive to bring about a transportation revolution in Georgia.
John Johnson, Director of Interpretation and Education at the Agrirama in Tifton, explains the economic impact of going from one person able to seed one pound of cotton a day to Eli Whitney's cotton gin seeding 50 pounds of cotton a day. Dr. Jerry DeVine of Albany State College notes that the increase in cotton production saw a parallel increase in slavery. Slaves and land were the two greatest forms of wealth in Georgia, with more money invested in slaves than land.
Storyteller Akbar Imhotep entertains visitors to Joel Chandler Harris’s Atlanta home, Wren’s Nest, explaining how African slaves brought with them a strong oral tradition of storytelling, especially trickster tales, and told them in the evenings when the work was done. These folktales were recorded by Joel Chandler Harris and known as the Uncle Remus stories when published.
The Georgia Stories series consists of streaming videos, educator resources, and primary source materials that support the teaching of Georgia Studies.
An exploration of antebellum Savannah through the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters
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