Visiting Local Exhibit Good Way to Honor MLK
The “Powder Springs Has Some Deep Roots” exhibit at the Seven Springs Museum highlights the evolution of the city's black community.
Eighty-one years ago he was born, and 42 years ago he was killed.
Five decades ago his words and actions resulted in his immortalization, and two and a half decades ago a day January forever became his namesake.
What Martin Luther King Jr. wanted was nothing new; but what he did to make those wants materialize was.
He helped organize a people that were more than a minority meant for trampling. He helped expose social injustices to a nation and use those same constitutional hypocrisies as a sword against the original wielder.
And the legislative and eventually informal results—the ones that trickled down from the nation’s capital to Small Town USA—can and will forever be seen in classrooms, on election ballots, and through the eyes of all.
I was reminded of the changes that came about because of King and the civil rights movement on Sunday as I strolled through the Seven Springs Museum. There, the award-winning “Powder Springs Has Some Deep Roots” exhibit describes the evolution of black Powder Springs residents from the Civil War to today.
In recognition of King and his efforts to open doors for black communities nationwide, here’s a synopsis of the exhibit.
When white settlers first came to Powder Springs in 1838, they brought slaves with them. By 1860, there were 483 slaves in the city.
Upon the Civil War’s end, many former slaves and their children stayed on farms as sharecroppers. It was hard to find good working conditions for black Powder Springs residents otherwise because, in spite of slavery’s illegality, segregation still existed.
By the early 1900s, they made their way into houses and developed their own communities.
“There was a lot of love there,” one resident said. “I’m thankful that it was that way.”
The “color line” between black and white people in the city would continue for decades, though, in respect to housing, education, work and all other aspects of society.
In anticipation of 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education being ruled in favor of school desegregation, Powder Springs School for black children was closed in 1953. But local high schools still did not admit black children, so they had to commute to Marietta if they wanted to receive that level of education.
“The blacks were bussed right by white county schools,” one person remembered.
There was a huge gap between funding for white students and black students. Books provided to black children, for example, were hand-me-downs from white schools.
“What they use to have, whatn’t nothing in there about no blacks, less Dr. George Washington Carver or someone like that,” one person remembered. “You might run across that. That was about it. I ain’t remember nothing else. And Dr. King hadn’t come along at that time.”
But then, as the civil rights movement had gained a full load of steam, McEachern High School opened its doors to black students in 1968.
Many local businesses would follow suit, but even then, they would only hire black community members for laborious jobs. Since these jobs did not pay well, black men and women had to work multiple jobs to support their families.
“You leave one job and go to another one, but I guess you about had to,” one person recalled.
In some cases where discrimination still did occur, civil rights leaders such as King at least inspired people to stand up for basic rights.
In 1970, two men weren’t allowed to swim in the pool at Powder Springs Park because they were black, so they called the police. The police took their side and they were permitted to swim.