For the past half-century, tens of thousands of incoming freshmen at the University of Georgia have lived in dormitories on Baxter Street in Athens, Ga., an area that was once home to the Black community of Linnentown.

This weekend, a new musical about how Linnentown residents were forced from their homes to make way for the university opens Friday night at the Classic Center in Athens.

Linnentown the Musical tells the story through one family: The Thomases.

"Man, this was such a beautiful community until all the urban renewal stuff happened; it just kinda hits home," said Savonte Wilson, who plays the family patriarch, Abe Thomas Sr..

Wilson said Abe fought for his family’s home through the federally supported effort to displace Black families. The role inspired him as he thinks about his own future.

"What happened to this family, just thinking of what that would look like for me, for someone who wants to be a future dad, to provide for my wife and family," Wilson told GPB. "To me playing this role is a bit sentimental and emotional."

The play is based on a book by Abe Thomas Sr.’s daughter, Hattie Thomas Whitehead, whose 2021 memoir, Giving Voice to Linnentown described her childhood growing up there in the 1960s.

Tracy Brown plays Whitehead’s mother, Laura Thomas, in the musical.

"I feel like this community is a beautiful display of what life actually should be like and could be like, those beautiful possibilities when everybody is vested in each other within their community," Brown told GPB.

Linnentown the Musical runs from April 12 to April 14 at the Classic Center in Athens. 

Tags: Georgia  Athens  musicals  1960s