Black legislators, past and present, celebrated in Atlanta exhibit

theGRIO REPORT - The rich history of Georgia's black legislators has been captured in an exciting exhibit at an African-American library in downtown Atlanta...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

ATLANTA – The rich history of Georgia’s black legislators has been captured in an exciting exhibit at an African-American library in downtown Atlanta.

The exhibition, entitled “Remembering Our Legends and Honoring Our Torchbearers”, features an extensive collection, from rare artifacts from the 19th century to documents from the civil rights era, as well as recorded interviews with current lawmakers.

The display, showcased at Auburn Avenue Research Library, celebrates the history of black Americans who have served in the Georgia General Assembly. This includes the first black men, who were elected to the Georgia legislature in 1868, but were prohibited from assuming office because of their color.

The exhibit, spearheaded by the Azalea City Chapter of The Links Inc., pays tribute to Senator Leroy Johnson, who was the first African-American to serve in the Georgia Assembly since the Reconstruction. He served 1963 till 1975.

It also highlights the work of Grace Towns Hamilton, the first black woman elected to the Georgia Assembly.

“While working to collect material for the archives of our chapter we discovered the absence of information about Black Georgia Legislators and wanted to do something about this oversight,” said Dr. Lucretia R. Payton-Stewart.

“We don’t hear stories about African Americans, especially from the 1800s, who have contributed to the political landscape here in Georgia,” Dr. Payton-Stewart told

She said the story of 33 African-American legislators who were expelled from the Georgia legislator in 1868 and later reinstated in 1870 by an Act of Congress, “has paved the way for today’s African American legislators.”

The Links, Incorporated, is the driving force behind the project, and materials for the exhibit were donated by members of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus (GLBC).

“The current members of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus are extremely honored and proud to be a part of Remembering our Legacy and Honoring our Torchbearers and we will continue to build on this rich history left to us from those whose shoulders we stand on,” said State Senator Emanuel Jones, the current chair of the GLBC.

The ribbon cutting for the exhibition will take place on Sunday, April 15, 2012, at 3:30 p.m. Georgia Legislative Black Caucus: Remembering Our Legends and Honoring Our Torchbearers will be available for viewing through May 13.

Auburn Avenue Research Library is the first public library in the Southeast to offer specialized reference and archival collections dedicated to the study and research of African American culture and history and of other peoples of African descent.

Black elected officials serving in the Georgia General Assembly today include Carolyn Hugley, Stacey Abrams and Calvin Smyre.

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