Decade of growth for the Tybee MLK Human Rights Organization

Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 2:38 PM EST
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TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - “There is no place on Tybee that was not touched by African-American history. From churches, to nightclubs, to the pier that we go to that we know we had world class African-American artists in the 30s and 40s from all over the country who came here to Tybee to entertain to all white audiences. We know that the Black community who was here on Tybee would feed those people. These are stories, wonderful stories,” Tybee MLK Human Rights Organization co-founder Julia Pearce said.

A decade ago, Pearce and her husband founded Tybee’s MLK non-profit organization. Over the years they’ve watched it grow from eight members to more than 35, they’ve watched city council pass a race equity resolution that they were a large part of, and they’ve marked historic sites.

Pearce says in 2022, one of the organization’s greatest accomplishments was unveiling the wade-in marker at the county pier.

“It’s a story that happened back in the 60s and we had many people come out to see it and it’ll be a central focus there at the pier for eons to come,” Pearce said.

Pearce says her favorite moment with the organization this past year was when the Tybee Historical Society told the story of the middle passage when ships filled with enslaved Africans came to Tybee.

“The fact that they were willing to talk about it made me weep. It made me weep because we’re not invisible,” Pearce said.

Pearce said there’s a lot to look forward to in 2023. In the spring, the island’s first Black history trail will be established. It stretches from Lazaretto Creek to the Back River.

Pearce says a lot of people are involved in making this happen including Georgia Southern University. People will learn as they go exploring parts of the trail both in-person and virtually.

“It’s an independent tour. It’s for people who are into independent study who really want to know, who really want to know and so we’re excited about that and it’s long overdue,” Pearce said.

Pearce says in April she will be taking a pilgrimage to the Door of No Return in Cape Coast, Ghana to make the connection between it and Tybee. She says what she learns will be an asset to the positive future she sees for the MLK organization.

“We want people to come and look at Tybee a different way. Years ago, the only time I heard about Black people on Tybee was during Orange Crush and it was always cantankerous, but there’s so much more to the story, my goodness,” Pearce said.