Georgia’s rise from the ashes of civil war sparked a debate about development and the future of the state. Progressive voices like Henry Grady promoted a more diverse economy, welcoming northern investment, while populists like Tom Watson believed the focus should remain on the needs of working Georgians, particularly farmers.
The Atlanta fire ravaged the northeastern section of the city in 1917. In interviews with witnesses, the devastation of nearly 3,400 buildings is recounted.
Professor John Lupold of Columbus College describes the forces leading to the urbanization of Georgia, while retired textile mill workers Lee Manly, Jeannette Scales, and Charlie Stafford explain what it was like to work in Georgia's mills. In the early 1900s, there were no Georgia laws prohibiting child labor, a situation that coincided with the rise of the textile industry.
Martha Berry founded Possum Trot, a log cabin school for rural children, at Oak Hill, on her Rome, Georgia family’s plantation. In addition to receiving academic and religious instruction, her students were trained in manual skills -- students literally helped build the Berry School. This segment includes scenes from a 1950s newsreel recounting the life of Martha Berry. Local historians and former students comment.
Fran Powell Harold, director of the Girl Scout National Center, discusses the energy and creativity that Juliette Gordon Low brought to the formation of the Girl Scouts, which she founded in her Savannah home. In a Girl Scout promotional film she created, young girls are seen as physically fit, able to swim, communicating in Morse code, and learning to be self-reliant. The story of the creation of the Girl Scouts is framed with a visit to a contemporary Augusta troop.
Historians discuss the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill Strike of 1914, in which 500 of 1300 workers challenged the management of the company for their grueling practices.
Alonzo Herndon, a former slave born in 1858 in Social Circle, sought to better himself and ultimately became Atlanta's first African-American millionaire. An entrepreneur at heart, he learned barbering and eventually opened his own shop in Atlanta called the Crystal Palace and later founded the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. Historian Marcellus Barksdale describes the Crystal Palace as fitting its name. Carole Merritt, director of Herndon Home, takes students on a tour of the house where Alonzo Herndon lived with his wife Adrienne and their son Norris.
A passionate journalist and charismatic public speaker, Henry Woodfin Grady was known as the “The Spokesman of the New South.” In the late 19th Century, he engaged in a near one-man campaign to bring prosperity to Atlanta and the rest of the South, so damaged and depressed from the recent American Civil War. Grady’s movement fixed fast-growing Atlanta as the hub of the New South, and it spurred the economic growth of the entire region.
Rebecca Latimer Felton, a Georgia native and women's rights activist, was the first woman to serve as a United States senator. Following the death of Georgia Senator Thomas Watson, Felton was appointed to the open seat during a special election in 1922. Although she was the nation’s official first woman senator, Felton served for only a day.
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.
John Johnson at the Georgia Agrirama recounts how important agriculture is to Georgia. At one time most Georgians lived on farms. In the early 1900s when compulsory school attendance was first required by law, families still needed children to help with the necessary farm work in the spring. School calendars were set to accommodate that need. Students and farmworkers demonstrate the challenges of farm life during turn of the century Georgia.
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.
Raised to be a lady of leisure and high society, Juliette Gordon Low's life changed entirely when she was seeking a new direction for herself after her marriage dissolved. In London, she met the founder of England's Girl Guides. The patrols she started for the girls of Savannah became the Girl Scouts eventually enlisting the First Ladies of the United States as honorary presidents of the organization.
A racist governor, sensationalized headlines and Jim Crow laws sparked rage in a mob of white men who randomly beat and killed black men in Atlanta. Historian Cliff Kuhn and Carole Merritt, director of Herndon Home, examine the causes and consequences of the Race Riot of 1906.
Historians discuss the events of the sensationalized Leo Frank case and the broader implications of the many social conflicts that prevailed during those times.
An early champion of poor farmers in the shambles after the Civil War, Thomas Watson was the voice of the Populist Party. In his later years, however, he was known as a divisive and racist politician.
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.
In the wake of the Civil War, Georgia faced the dual challenges of rebuilding a shattered economy and integrating freed slaves into its population. As the state struggled to rise from the ashes of war during Reconstruction and into the first decades of the twentieth century, competing visions for the direction of southern politics and the New South economy dominated the state. Along the way, modern forms of entertainment and emerging cultural influences integrated Georgia’s past with its present.
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