Putnam County and UGA students engage with NEH-funded public humanities project

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Putnam County and UGA students engage with NEH-funded public humanities project

The UGA College of Education’s Kristen Morales has written an excellent article about the Putnam County, Ga. local history program that is being supported by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to the Willson Center.

From the article:

Christopher Lawton stood in the dirt next to the first plot sold in Eatonton’s Pine Grove Cemetery to make a point.

The unmarked grave of David Myrick, one of the wealthiest people in the middle Georgia town in the mid-1800s, was a far cry from the lavish lifestyle he and his wife, Polly, enjoyed during their lifetimes.

“How did the Myricks sustain such an elite existence?“ he asked the high school students gathered with him.

The answer could be found in the documents they had been studying. One detailed the sale, in May of 1835, of a little boy on the courthouse steps.

“They sold a 7-year-old boy to pay for that,” said Lawton, director of experiential learning for Putnam County Schools, as he gestured toward downtown Eatonton and the home where the Myricks lived. “How did his mother tell her little boy, ‘I’m not going to see you anymore?’”

Lawton’s story capped a morning of discovery for 14 students from Putnam County High School who are taking part in a multi-year project to archive documents and photos related to the county’s African-American history. As part of the project, faculty and graduate students from the University of Georgia College of Education are helping to create curriculum that blends the literacy and history lessons gleaned from the research into classroom curriculum.

Originally begun through the Georgia Virtual History Project, of which Lawton is director and which is affiliated with UGA’s Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, students are learning how to dig through 200-year-old records and catalog them for future use.

The project recently took on new legs thanks to a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded to the Willson Center. It represents a unique partnership between the Willson Center, the College of Education and the Putnam County Charter School System. The Willson Center and the College of Education have been engaged for the better part of a year in raising required matching funds for the grant, an effort that remains underway.

Congratulations to Christopher Lawton and his students in Putnam County for their hard work and great curiosity, as well as to the UGA students and faculty who are contributing to this extraordinarily worthwhile project. Read the full article here.

Putnam County