Sallie E. Davis Foundation
Missing members: Ruby Jackson, Lucy Dennis
The history of black people in Baldwin County is being recorded by a group of women who want coming generations to know where they came from and where they can go.
In two years, their efforts should blossom into the Sallie Davis Museum at 301 Clark St., which will document contributions blacks have made to the community.
“We need our young people to know,” said Carolyn Thomas, a member of the Sallie Davis Foundation, which is renovating the house where the group’s name-sake once lived.
“There are a lot of people who go to schools and they don’t know that they were named after black leaders, that a person actually existed and laid a great foundation for teaching the black youth in the community at a time when it was very unpopular,” she said. They kind of insulated you from the horrors of segregation and said, ‘I love you and I’m going to teach you.’ It is these kind of people we are honoring with the Sallie Davis house.”
Davis was one of the first teachers at Eddy High School and was principal there for 27 years. She retired in 1948 after 58 years at the school.
“At one time all black students from Milledgeville went there, “Otelia Edwards, a great-niece of Davis.
One former student, quoted in a brochure prepared by the foundation, described here as a “pioneer black educator” who came into the classroom “at a time when she was teaching the children of enslaved people who may not have been physically, but mentally shackled.”
Sallie E. Davis
Davis was born outside Milledgeville in the mid 1870s. Her mother died when she was young, but her father, an Irish immigrant, was a prominent merchant, landowner and farmer, according to the brochure.
She attended primary and secondary schools in Baldwin County before enrolling at Atlanta University. There, she developed a life-long friendship with teacher W.E.B. DuBois, founder of the NAACP. She returned to Milledgeville to teach, but she never stopped educating herself. She attended summer school at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama when Booker T. Washington was president. She also attended Savannah College.
Davis Elementary School, formerly Sallie E. Davis Elementary School is named for her.
Edwards said she envisions the museum as a repository of information about black people from Baldwin County and across middle Georgia.
The foundation has applied for a $25,000 state grant to repair the house’s foundation and roof. Edwards said local carpenters and brick masons have volunteered to work on the structure Davis bought in 1912 Renovation is expected to begin in June.
She and others want to display “anything of the achievement of black citizens of this area.” They are interested in photographs, church histories and mementos that document black life.
The foundation is concerned that people are not aware of the many contributions blacks have made, Edwards said.
“The people, the older people that knew of the contributions are passing off the scene and we know that the population is younger and that people are coming on and they have no idea of the things that happened in this county in the past,” Edwards said.
“We had quite a business society, quite a cultural society, and quite an educational set-up. These are things we want to bring.”
The adversity that surrounded the black community during segregation, at least for now, is being held in the minds and hearts of the people who lived through it.
"Right now, we are focusing on contributions of merit. We are not delving into the past of the things that are so unpleasant. Of course, I’m sure that there are many, but there are many pleasant times that people of this county can enjoy," Edwards said.
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