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Dorchester Academy’s role in the fight for equality

Published: Jun. 18, 2021 at 1:17 PM EDT
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MIDWAY, Ga. (WTOC) - Saturday marks the 156th anniversary of Juneteenth, the end of slavery in the United States.

Celebrations have been happening all week across the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry. It’s also a time to reflect on the progress our country has made.

Dorchester Academy in Midway played a key role in the fight for equality.

“Every day my eyes are opened to the path of freedom and what it took for us to become free,” Hermina Glass-Hill said.

Glass-Hill walks the halls of Dorchester Academy and Museum in Midway as the curator and designer, saying it’s an honor to share its history.

“To learn something about our God-given right to just be...that you had to fight for it,” Glass-Hill said.

Dorchester Academy opened in the 1870′s, after the Civil War ended, as a school for freed slaves.

“When African Americans were seeking their claim as citizens and education. So, from 1874 and onward, Dorchester Academy, also known as Dorchester Center, has been the center of African American community life here in Liberty County,” she said.

It was the center for social change.

“Freedom has always been a goal of African Americans.”

In 1940, it became the Dorchester Cooperative Center. Later becoming the site for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Citizen Education Program, led by Septima Poinsette Clark, also known as the “mother of the Civil Rights Movement” by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Here, Africans learned how to exercise their civil rights such as voting.

“Being able to interpret how many jellybeans in a jar was one of the most ridiculous requirements that would allow African Americans to enter and fill out their voter registration form so that they can get the right to vote,” Glass-Hill said.

In this room at Dorchester, King and other key figures in the Civil Rights Movement sat around a table preparing for “PROJECT C”, which became the infamous Birmingham Campaign in 1963.

“When the world got to see just how serious and how detrimental segregation was in America.”

Paving the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“We have to always give homage and celebrate what they’ve done for us to experience today.”

Just two weeks ago, Dorchester Academy unveiled its Civil Rights Movement exhibit, where visitors can learn about the center’s role in the fight for equality.

“America is not America without including the fabric of African-American stories.”

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