By Paul Huggins, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily
Black pioneers who helped forge Decatur’s history come to life in a brochure that aims to educate local residents as well as help tourism.
“I see it as a tool for all of us. Not just whites, but blacks, too, because a lot of blacks don’t know it,” said Peggy Towns, who worked with King’s Memorial United Methodist Church’s pastor, the Rev. Wylheme Ragland, to provide information and photos.
The cover features photos of Decatur native Mae Jemison, the first black female astronaut to visit outer space, and the military grave marker for Amos McKinney, a Union Civil War soldier buried at Magnolia Sykes Cemetery.
It also has a photo of the historic marker for the Schaudies-Banks Cottage.
The brochure discusses the slaves who cut the stone pillars of Old State Bank and George Washington Carver’s visit to Decatur Negro High.
It lists early black businessmen, physicians, attorneys and government officials, as well as schools and churches.
Towns, who is distributing the brochures to local black churches and the Morgan County Archives, said her main motivation was to educate and enlighten local residents about their black history, but she also thinks the brochure will increase tourism.
“When I go on vacation, I always try to find a museum or some interesting place to visit. Hopefully, when people see the brochure, they will say, ‘Hmm, I didn’t know that’ and visit Decatur. It will be a tool to enrich their lives.”
Tami Reist, president of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, agreed and was willing to spend $2,700 to print 10,000 copies. The bureau will also put the brochure on its Web site. Anyone with a computer can download and print it.
Towns will help lead an historic walking tour of some of the areas listed in the brochure Oct. 17 as part of The Big Read, a citywide tribute to the book “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
The tour will start at Cotaco Park at the Morgan County Courthouse at 10 a.m. Towns will explain what 1930s Decatur looked like for the black community and explore sites significant during the Scottsboro Boys trials.