Saturday, June 26, 2004

History of the African American Alliance in Coweta Co GA

Cynthia Rosers joined the board of directors of the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society December of 2000. In January President Natalie Helvie and Cynthia Rosers discussed the need for NCHS’s involvement in the African American community. After several meetings between the two it was decided that a committee would be formed to accomplish this, the African American Heritage committee.
February of 2001 a symposium was organized at the Carnegie Library building in downtown Newnan, by the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society President Natalie Helvie and board member Cynthia Rosers in which African American students from the Newnan High School’s Drama Department, under the direction of drama teacher Ms. Carol Newell, read several slave narratives obtained through It was free to the public and there were thirty-five people in attendance
During the month of April 2001 Chairperson Cynthia Rosers solicited corporations for start up operational funds for the African American Heritage committee and received donations of $250 from the Bank of Coweta and $1,000 from Newnan Utilities.
In May of 2001 Cynthia Rosers and Natalie Helvie of NCHS solicited the community to come out to a second symposium to organize an African American History Committee. There were nine people who attended the meeting held at Newnan Chapel Methodist Church.
Several meetings followed with the membership increasing with each meeting.
At the September meeting the need for the preservation of the memories of our senior citizens was discussed and an oral interview project was established. It was to be conducted in conjunction with the African American Heritage committee of NCHS and Newnan High School’s Social Studies Department under the direction of Teacher Steve Quizenberry. This project was the first in the ongoing efforts to document the African American history of Coweta County in recognition of the urgency of its preservation. The students conducted audio interviews of seven senior African Americans who were natives of this area. The interviews took place October 25, 2001.
One of the interviewees included Reverend Welcome Sutton, whose daughter, Bernice Sutton Poythress, joined the AAA and acquainted the group with a declining one-room schoolhouse in Coweta County. The school was built in the 1930's by the African American community and members of Powell Chapel United Methodist Church for the education of the African American children in the community. Ms. Poythress is an alumna of the school and acquainted with numerous alumni living in the area.
At the October 2001 meeting a new name was adopted and officers were elected. The African American Heritage committee became the African American Alliance, a program of the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society.
Serious interest in the preservation of the Powell Chapel Schoolhouse began at the November 2001 meeting. At that meeting AAA envisioned the potential of a school museum for the community and decided to assist with the renovation. An estimate of $50,000 was given at this meeting. There were discussions about obtaining a state Historic Preservation grant and getting the school on the national registry of historic places. A series of fundraisers began with a fish fry and craft fair which were in keeping with historic tradition, as Ms. Poythress told the committee that the original families used this method of fundraising to raise money for materials and supplies for the building of the school. $600 was collected from this event.
At this meeting plans were established for the first major fundraiser to be held December of 2001 with the raffle of a custom-made African American doll fondly named "Sadie Mae". She was crafted by a local African American doll maker, Tonia Floyd. Though retailing for $1500, Ms. Floyd gave a discount and the doll was purchased for $600. AAA sold 187 tickets at $10.00 per ticket which profited AAA $1270.00. The printing cost was donated by Quick as a Wink Printing. The proceeds were added to the working funds for the operation of the AAA.
At this same meeting there was much discussion about the financial status of AAA. Many members wanted to have sole control over the funds that was being generated solely by the AAA members. A separate checking account was preferred but was not possible since AAA was not a separate entity with its own non-profit status. It was decided that the NCHS would establish a separate line item to separate the funds of AAA and monthly financial reports would be given at each meeting. Chairperson and NCHS board member, Cynthia Rosers would have the authority to request whatever funds were needed for the operation of AAA.
The December meeting was a brief one discussing the sale of the raffle tickets.
At the January meeting Chairperson Cynthia Rosers explained that she had been absorbing the cost of office supplies and postage. A budget was discussed.
At the February meeting a logo was discussed and it was decided to offer a logo competition to the students at NHS. There would be a $50 prize awarded. Also at this meeting the need for AAA’s own “home” was discussed. The building at the Farmer Street Cemetery was brought up. This building was a three room shotgun type which could accommodate a museum, research center and offices for AAA. Cynthia Rosers had investigated it and the City of Newnan was willing to renovate and lease the building to AAA through NCHS since AAA does not have its own 501 ( c ) 3 certificate. The lease amount mentioned was $1.00 per year as the arrangement with the NCHS’s Male Academy Museum and the city of Newnan. In exchange AAA would provide the city with its first Black Museum and a place for further research of the Farmer Street Cemetery which is one of the African American Cemeteries in the city limits. This building will also service as a repository for the records that AAA is beginning to collect on the AA history of the county.
Weekly committee meetings began in May 2002, to prepare an application for the Heritage Grant sponsored by the Georgia Historic Preservation Division. Lynne Miller of the Chattahoochee Flint Regional Development Commission worked with AAA members in pre-paration of this grant which will help provide funding for phase one of the renovation process to stabilize the Powell Chapel Schoolhouse. Phase one is to repair and replace floors, doors, and windows. At the May 2002 meeting $50 a month was voted on for administrational charges.
At the June 2002 meeting the issue of AAA getting incorporated and its 501 ( c ) 3 status was discussed again.
The Heritage Grant package was delivered on July 3, 2002, a week before the deadline. The preparation cost was $459 and included 34 letters of support.
The Heritage 2002 grant of $13,500 was awarded to AAA and NCHS September of 2002. This grant is a 60/40 reimbursement type grant requiring AAA to match it with $9000. As bills are received at HPD they will reimburse 60% of the amount back to AAA Therefore AAA must have available funds to pay the bill when submitted. The school will be placed on the Georgia registry of historic places as a condition of this grant. This will be the first African American architecture listed as a historic site. Newnan has many AA sites and this is just the start to getting them all registered.
By Laws and Articles of Incorporation were adopted at the September meeting. Attorney Graylin Ward processed the application for the application fees only, donating his attorney fees. The state approved the application October 17, 2002.
A Fall Festival was held in downtown Newnan on October 19, 2002 by the AAA. This event helped to acquaint a larger portion of the community with the efforts of AAA to preserve the African American history of the area and to increase membership and participation. It also was used to inform the community of the Powell Chapel Schoolhouse Project and serve as a fund raiser.
The festival included 20 vendors, at $50.00 per vendor and a raffle of items donated by local stores. Entertainment was provided free of charge. Expenses included the rental of portable toilets, rental of a moonwalk for children and rental of stage and sound equipment. Total profit from this event was $844.95. This event was planned by AAA members and sponsored by Main Street Newnan under the direction of director, Linda Bridges, and assistant director, Lynn Yeager.
In addition to revenue generated from the Festival event, there was a major donation drive and the total donations collected toward the $9,000 matching portion are $4268.00.
A Soulful Christmas Celebration is planned by the AAA for December 21, 2002 at Wadsworth Auditorium in downtown Newnan to raise additional funds for the Powell Chapel Schoolhouse project obligations and additional operating expenses. Tickets will be sold for $10.00 each and a program will be printed for which advertisements from local businesses will be sold. The rental fee for the auditorium was waived by the city and some of the performers are donating their time.
As of November 2002, work has begun on the museum and history center which is planned to open in February of 2003 for Black History month.

Future fundraisers include an African American Tour of Homes, Jazz concert and a golf tournament.
A college fair and workshop is planned in February to assist graduating seniors with their college choices. Genealogy workshops, a Black History art show and participation in Newnan’s 175th anniversary are also planned. These are a few of several events being discussed as community projects for 2003.

AAA will continue to be affiliated with NCHS for support and guidance.

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