AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Augusta’s historic black business community came alive through the arts so that all can honor an industry that thrived during segregation. The community paid homage with public art to The Golden Blocks Project. That initiative is comprised of the neighborhood historically known as Augusta’s black business area, located on Campbell and Gwinnett Streets, which are now James Brown and Laney Walker Boulevards. The project creates new public art that references places in the Laney Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods such as the Lenox Theater, Tabernacle Baptist Church, and black owned banks, insurance companies and other businesses. The art includes poems, a song, a mural and a walking tour.
Greater Augusta Arts Council Project Manager Pax Bobrow addressed the group at A. R. Johnson Saturday afternoon that gathered to reflect on the rich culture.
“We have four incredible artists who didn’t just do some research and come up with something on their own. They worked together,” she said. “They had a synergy in which they built on each other’s work.”
The featured artists are Audrey “Sala Adenike” Jeter-Allen, Kristie Robin Johnson, Ashley Gray and Sara Cooks.
The project states that during segregation, the Golden Blocks allowed African Americans to have their own business community when black patrons were discriminated against due to Jim Crow era laws.
During the event, Johnson read poems she penned on the Golden Blocks and Sala Adenike performed a song she wrote titled Golden Blocks Legacy with the help of Creative Impressions.
The project is spearheaded by Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History and the Greater Augusta Arts Council. Museum Historian Corey Rogers told the group a Golden Blocks mural was located at the side of the Wallace Branch Library.
Earlier Saturday morning, local high school alumni and the community painted the historic area of Laney Walker Boulevard gold and green.
It was all for the unveiling of an historic monument honoring Dr. Thomas Walter Josey on the corner of 11th Street and Laney Walker Boulevard. The native Augustan put himself through Haines Institute, went on to medical school and worked for Pilgrim Health and Life Insurance Company. He later become medical director, supervising about 100 medical directors. He’s named for T.W. Josey High School and graduates along with the community honored his community work, which includes the hiring of Augusta’s first six black policemen.
Dr. Cheryl Evans Jones, a noted Josey alum and President of Paine College and Richmond County School Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Bradshaw unveiled the monument.
Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History Historian and Paine College Professor Corey Rogers stated, “I just encourage all Augustans to appreciate, to embrace, to love the history of our community. We’re one of the oldest cities in the south and we have a proud, longstanding legacy, but we need to embrace. And I think that this marker reminds us of why this history is so important.”
The Augusta African American Historical Society, T.W. Josey, Lucy C. Laney and Haines Alumni Associations helped erect the monument.