Former Ambassador Andrew J. Young to visit Georgia Southwestern University

Published 10:04 am Monday, June 3, 2024

On Saturday, June 8th at 7 p.m., former Ambassador to the United Nations, The Honorable Andrew J. Young will give an address at the Jackson Hall Performance Arts Center on the campus of Georgia Southwestern State University. Ambassador Young will be speaking in support of the Americus-Sumter County Movement Remembered Committee’s initiative to restore the Americus Historic Colored Hospital to become the Americus-Sumter County Civil Rights and Cultural Center.

No stranger to Southwest Georgia, Ambassador Young was a pioneer in developing curriculum that inspired what were then called “Citizenship Schools” throughout rural Georgia during the late 1950’s. These schools were set up mostly in local churches and their primary function was to give voice to impoverished African Americans who were denied the right to vote. Literacy classes were taught that prepared them to register to vote in counties where blacks usually held the majority but lacked participation in the political process.

As a young activist with SCLC, the Ambassador worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King during the Albany Civil Rights Movement in 1961. Dr. King would be arrested during that same year in Albany and transferred to Americus where he along with the Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy and Dr. William Anderson would spend the weekend in the Sumter County jail. Upon his release, Dr. King would forever refer to then Sheriff Fred Chappell as the “meanest man on earth”. 

As an appointee of former President Jimmy Carter as United Nations Ambassador, Ambassador Young has remained very close to the President and his wife Roselyn, and has visited him several times in Plains while in Hospice Care.

Ambassador Young’s visit to Americus coincides with a soon to be announced initiative to launch a Capital Campaign for continued fund-raising by the ASCMRC. To date the ASCMRC has been awarded 2.5 million dollars from the National Park Service African American Civil Rights Preservation Fund. Funding from the NPS can only be used for construction costs. They cannot be used for furnishings, gallery fixtures, computers, the outdoor amphitheater or any other costs not related to construction. The ASCMRC continues to seek and make requests for Congressional Earmark Funds whenever they are made available. However, it is the Americus community that we look to in bringing this project to fruition. By conducting public forums like this, the ASCMRC seeks to engage in and enlist local businesses, institutions, foundations and individuals to take ownership of the project and make it their own. The result will be yet another addition to Sumter County’s Cultural Tourism base, as the Civil Rights Center will be situated between the

Andersonville National Historic Site resting east of the city, and the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park in Plains, to its west. Both of these sites attract hundreds of thousands of
visitors each year and the Civil Rights Center will only enhance those numbers. Once construction is complete, the building now known as the Americus Historic Colored Hospital will become the Americus-Sumter County Civil Rights and Cultural Center. Some of its features will be a Civil and Human Rights Exhibit Hall that explores the critical role of the Americus Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, part of the national movement that resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A permanent Colored Hospital exhibit will display and enumerate the role the hospital played as it helped shape and solidify an emerging black middle class. An additional gallery will house the Permanent Collection of original art paintings of fine art by local, regional, national and international artists. A Multi-Purpose Space designed especially for our youths will feature an open and interactive portal of art activity, where students of all ages can immerse themselves in art classes and community projects that enrich their development holistically. A community “Freedom Library” will be established to house upwards to 15,000 volumes on African American History, literature, and art. Students from nearby schools and universities will be found there while performing research under the supervision of local and regional scholars. In addition, researchers will help conduct oral histories while collecting information on African American Family History and Genealogy. A specially designed Conference Room will occupy a space dedicated to the City Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs of Americus. This space will also be made available for community meetings to accommodate other organizations. The Women’s club is an affiliate of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs founded in 1896 in Washington, D.C. Some of its original founders included Harriet Tubman, Mary Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells. It was the Americus club that purchased the building in 1955 after the hospital closed two years earlier. Financed by a loan from the Citizens Bank of Americus, they purchased the building for $8,000 and immediately re-purposed it for a much-needed Day-Care and Nursery for working parents. It later evolved into a Community Center for teens and during the Americus Movement, it housed a “Freedom Center” that included a library for black students who were denied use of the public Lake Blackshear Library.

The ASCMRC is collaborating with the Phoebe-Sumter Medical Center to establish a Community Health Clinic on the east wing of the facility. This clinic will focus on education,
health literacy and navigational services, provided by a Community Health Worker. Visitors will be provided with a detailed Community Outreach plan with an emphasis on integrated care and treatment, an Annual Health Fair to conduct health screenings, services for children with special needs, nutrition and ageing. A Community Garden facilitated by Phoebe’s Healthy Sumter Initiative will be established behind the building for community access to fresh vegetables.

Please continue to check your local news sources for an official announcement regarding the ASCMRC Capital Campaign launch. In the meantime, donations to the project can be made online at www.theamericusmovement, or mail contributions to: ASCMRC, Inc., P. O. Box 1383, Americus, Georgia 31709