Augusta is Georgia’s second oldest city – founded in 1735, two years after Savannah – and its rich past is filled with African-American trailblazers who contributed to its Southern soul, including the Godfather of Soul, an international opera star and an educational visionary. Tracing their legacies, and those of many other African-American notables, is a great way to celebrate Black History Month.
A sampling of Augusta’s historical offerings includes:
- Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History, which honors the educational pioneer who opened the first private boarding school in Augusta and the first nurses’ training class for black students.
- Augusta Museum of History, which features a tribute to James Brown, aka the Godfather of Soul, who first performed while shining shoes on the city’s streets.
- Cedar Grove Cemetery, a slave burial ground where Paine College students re-enact history on guided tours for Black History Month. (Paine College is a historically black college.)
- Augusta Canal National Heritage Area, which combines history and recreation via its boat tours in which visitors can learn about the labor of slaves and freedmen who built the canal as well as their work making gunpowder at the Confederate Powder Works and making shoes and clothes for the Confederate army and navy.
- Springfield Baptist Church, the nation’s oldest African-American congregation.
- Jessye Norman Amphitheatre at Augusta’s Riverwalk, commemorating the Metropolitan Opera star and Augusta native.
Photos of the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History and the James Brown exhibit at Augusta Museum of History provided by the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau.