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Driving tour focuses on African-American history

W hile much has been done on the Quaker heritage of McDuffie County, last year was the first time a tour was created describing the county's rich African-American Heritage. And it should fit into anyone's schedule, because the tour guide is available 24 hours, seven days a week.

African-American Heritage: The Road to Freedom is one of three audio driving tours released last year by the Thomson-McDuffie Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"I just want to say this is our first African-American anything when it comes to tourism in McDuffie County," tourism board member Kelly Evans said. "And I'm so proud of this, I can't stand it."

The tours can be accessed and heard by cell phone, downloaded onto an iPod or MP3 player, or listened to on the Internet.

Each tour is free, but does use minutes on one's cell phone plan, according to CVB Director Elizabeth Vance. Mrs. Vance is the brainchild behind the audio tours, which were written by CVB board chairwoman Michelle Zupan and feature the voices of local talent. Each tour can be accessed by going to www. and clicking on "things to do."

A brochure with a map of each drive also can be downloaded from the site. Brochures also are available at the McDuffie CVB office on Main Street and at all area hotels. Mrs. Vance said the African-American Heritage tour has received a grand total of 361 calls since it was released in March, 2009.

African-American Heritage: The Road to Freedom is approximately 48 minutes long and features narratives by Ella Mae Samuels and Michelle Collins, who tell the stories of African-Americans who lived and worked in McDuffie County, contributing to its success.

There are 13 stops on the African-American Heritage tour, in which tourists hear how the Quakers brought slaves in the 1700s to Wrightsboro (at the Wrightsboro Historic District), of the emergence of cotton plantations in Georgia and their dependence on the labor of African-American slaves and Irish and English indentured servants (at the Rock House), the history of the local African-American Reeds Chamber Mosaic Temple (at the Hickory Grove Cemetery), the different ways slaves worshipped (at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church), how slave labor was used at the Textile Mills and Cotton Gins (at the old box factory) and to build the Georgia Railroad (at the Thomson Depot).

Also, how blacks outnumbered the whites five to three in the county during reconstruction and voting rights after the Civil War (at the Courthouse), the tale of Thomas Watson's mammy, Amanda, (at the Tom Watson cottage), how Tom Watson hid black preacher, H.S. Doyle, from a lynch mob until help could arrive and then stood up to the mob (at the Watson-Brown Foundation house), a first-person dramatic reading of McDuffie slave Nancy Bowdy (at the McDuffie Museum) and the story of Blues artist Blind Willie McTell at his gravesite (at Jones Grove Baptist Church).

Stops number seven and eight are in the process of being changed. Number seven was the Sheik Hawes Building on Railroad Street, which taught about the African-American blacksmith Romolus Moore. Stop number eight was located right next door and taught the history of Folk Art and artists Zebedee Armstrong and Jake T. McCord (at McCord's house.) Both the Sheik Hawes Building and the McCord house were demolished last year to make way for the new city-county governmental complex currently under construction at Railroad and Greenway streets. Mrs. Vance said they are working on a new way to include the same lessons while rerouting the stops.

African-American Heristage: The Road to Freedom can be heard at 706-728-3058.

Web posted on Thursday, July 29, 2010

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