"The Mother of the Children of the People": The Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History

May is Local and Community History Month in the United Kingdom. I had no idea of this celebration, but I was inspired. I jumped in my Batmobile and headed to Augusta, Georgia, searching for some hidden history. My mission was a success. I came across the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History. The house belonged to the pioneering activist Lucy Laney. The building is rich in history. Sadly, it was damaged in 1987 due to a house fire, but Delta House inc purchased it and restored it to a museum. I'm happy Delta inc purchased the building because it may have faced the same tragic fate as other historic properties in the city. More on that topic a little later.

The historic house-museum is named and dedicated after the amazing woman Lucy Craft Laney (1854-1933), better known as "The Mother of the Children of the People." I'm not sure where to start with the contribution that Ms. Laney has had on Augusta and the Black community in general. To begin, she was born in Macon, Georgia, on April 13, 1854, eleven years before slavery ended. She was the seventh of ten children. 

Laney founded the first school for Black children in Augusta, Georgia, in 1883. Only a few children arrived on the first day, but hundreds of children from all over Augusta began to attend a little later. If that isn't impressive enough, Ms.Laney also pioneered Lamar Nursing school, the first Black nursing school in the city. The museum has many artifacts that showcase the school's history. You can see an original nursing uniform and many photographs of the graduating classes such as the class of 1907, as seen below. The most impressive fact about Ms.Laney is that by the time she was 15, she could read and write Latin.

You can schedule a tour and then roam the house at your leisure. I can tell the staff is extremely dedicated and connected to the history of the museum and Augusta. Their connections to the neighborhood and the museum makes the tour even better. You will not get a rehearsed or textbook telling of the past from the staff. Here's a great synopsis of the museum and Ms. Laney. She was amazing.

The museum is about an hour from my home, so I wanted to make this trip extremely worth the trip. I intended to visit other historical buildings. The first stop was one of the last buildings charted by Laney to educate Black children. Unfortunately, the building was torn down by the city in 2014. Despite being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building was demolished. Second on the list was the Lenox Theater, built in 1921. The theater served the African American community during a time of racial unjust. The theater was demolished in 1964. There were a total of 4 historic properties on the list that I couldn't visit due to neglect or the property no longer stands.

So why is Augusta neglecting and demolishing its rich Black history? Well, I tried to do more investigating on this topic. I can conclude that the city can decide the building's fate if the building is not declared historical on the local level. This is problematic; the decisions neglect to include the community in the overall process. The community is the heart of history and should be included. I also discovered that the Augusta community is doing great work to rectify this act.

Put in more than what you take out, and protect your heritage!


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