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Azalea Chapter of The Links, Inc create exciting exhibition, with oral history film, based on the history of Georgia’s Black Legislators – at the Auburn Avenue Research Library

African American Legislators, past and present, celebrated


The first group of Reconstruction-era African American elected officials in Georgia included three state senators -- Aaron A. Bradley, George Wallace and Tunis G. Campbell Sr. -- and thirty state representatives elected to serve in the Georgia legislature in 1868.

These African American Legislators were expelled from the Georgia Legislature, approximately two months after they were elected, because they were Black. This is a little-known fact in Black history that many have forgotten -- a lost history of Black people. The achievements made by African Americans in the civil rights area of the 20th century, which include elected Black people in the state of Georgia such as Julian Bond, Grace Towns Hamilton, and Leroy Johnson, are also significant to the history of the Black elected official in Georgia and must be embraced in history for the benefit of future generations.
The plight endured by our Georgia legislators is the reason behind the new exhibition at the Auburn Avenue Research Library (Atlanta, GA) entitled "Georgia Legislative Black Caucus: Remembering Our Legends and Honoring Our Torchbearers," which will be available for viewing from March 31 through May 13. The public is invited to view the extensive collection of rare documents and personal papers that depict the social, political, economic, and moral issues, from past and current Georgia legislators.

"Remembering our Legends and Honoring our Torchbearers," spearheaded by the Azalea City Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, is a significant milestone in recalling Georgia's history which will focus on the contributions of the men and women who have been a part of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus (GLBC). The purpose of the exhibit is to honor those Black men who were expelled from the Georgia Legislature in 1868, and honor and pay tribute to Senator Leroy Johnson, who was the first African American to serve in the Georgia Assembly since Reconstruction -- he was elected in 1963 and served until 1975.

The ribbon cutting for the exhibition will take place on Sunday, April 15, 2012, at 3:30 p.m. The Azalea City Links will sponsor a "White Glove Affair" reception that follows the ribbon cutting, during which time the exhibition will be open for visitors to examine the rare documents that have impacted Georgia's politics.

A film entitled "The African American Georgia Political Legislative Journey" is being created which features the oral history, recorded as interviews, from many Legends and Torchbearers, past and current Black Legislators, who are telling their stories about politics in the Georgia dome. This documentary will be shown during the reception and will remain as part of the exhibition and the archives at the Research Library.

"While working to collect material for the archives of our chapter, the Azalea City Chapter of The Links, Inc., we discovered the absence of information about Black Georgia Legislators and wanted to do something about this oversight," said Emeritus Associate Professor Dr. Lucretia R. Payton-Stewart (Georgia State University Department of Educational Policy Studies) and chairperson of the chapter's archives committee. "The momentum of this project escalated and we were fortunate to secure the cooperation and partnership of The Georgia Humanities Council and the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus," she added.

A six-foot tall bronze historic marker acknowledging the Black men who were expelled from the Georgia Legislature in 1868, commissioned by the Georgia Black Legislative Caucus (GBLC) in 1976, stands on the grounds of the Georgia State Capitol. This marker was vandalized in the 1980's, but has recently been restored. The GBLC took this occasion to re-dedicate the historical marker and it will remain as a memorial to these men and what they contributed to Georgia's history.

State Senator Emanuel Jones, the current chair of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus -- the largest legislative Black caucus in the United States, said "The current members of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus are extremely honored and proud to be a part of Remembering our Legacy and Honoring our Torchbearers and we will continue to build on this rich history left to use from those whose shoulder we stand on. We continue to draw from their strength and fortitude."

Today's Black elected officials serving the General Assembly of Georgia include many legislators that are extraordinary in their leadership. Representative Calvin Smyre, elected in 1974, was the youngest member elected at 26, is one of the deans of the Assembly. Representative Carolyn Hugley, elected in l992, serves as the Democratic Minority Whip and is a formidable member of the Women's Legislative Caucus. Representative Stacey Abrams, serves as the House Minority Leader. She is the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia Assembly and is the first African American to lead the House of Representatives.

"We extend an invitation, from the Azalea City Chapter of The Links, Inc., to the general public to come out and view this historical exhibition at the Research Library on Auburn Avenue. This is a very treasured exhibition, especially for young people; and the history revealed through the papers and other materials donated to the exhibit by members of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus offer to the public an opportunity to never forget the Legislators who started the journey in 1868 and passed it on to our present day legislators.  We must never forget," said Azalea City Link President Michele S. Gandy.