Putnam County partnership featured in Buzzfeed News profile on Sapelo Island
A Willson Center-linked history education initiative with rural Georgia high school students is featured in a current Buzzfeed News article profiling residents of Sapelo Island who are struggling to preserve their unique community amid the stresses of 21st-century economics, politics, and cultural shifts. From the article by Hannah Allam:
One blazing day on Sapelo, a dozen high school students from Putnam County, a poor, rural part of Central Georgia, sat in the back of a flatbed pickup with dragonflies swirling around their faces. Their eyes were closed as they marked a moment of reflection before stepping onto the ground of Chocolate Plantation, a site on the north end of the island where the ruins of slave cabins offer clues to life at the time of Bilali Muhammad.
The students were there with historian Christopher Lawton, through a partnership with his nonprofit Georgia Virtual History Project, the school district, and the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts at the University of Georgia. Lawton, who studies slavery and the antebellum South, told the teens that in all his research of plantation life, no place has haunted him like Chocolate. A framed photo of the cabins hangs outside his bedroom. He said he thinks about the plantation “at least twice a day.”
“Sometimes the hardest places, the most broken stuff, is where the most incredible things grow,” Lawton told the students. “If we wanted a nice and easy trip, we could’ve gone to Six Flags. This is about digging into yourselves.”
Lawton’s project in partnership with the Putnam County Charter School System is supported by a Humanities Access Challenge Grant awarded to the Willson Center last year by the National Endowment for the Humanities, for which the Willson Center and the College of Education are currently engaged in raising matching funds.