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Posted: February 8, 2009 12:01 a.m.

A dark past, a bright future

In 1926, historian Carter Woodson helped set aside the second week in February as week he called "Negro History Week" to celebrate the accomplishments of black Americans in this country.

 He chose the second week because of the birthdates of two Americans he thought were most influential in pushing forward the rights of black citizens — Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

 This week has since expanded to the entire month of February and is celebrated in most parts of the world.

 We are proud to highlight stories of local black Americans this month who, through their life and actions, have made a difference to the culture of Newton County and Social Circle.

 Friday, we ran a touching story about 78-year-old Emogene Williams’ recollection of how life was here in our community during an age where prejudice was more than prejudice and included hate and disrespect also.

 It’s hard for those of us who do remember this type of extreme prejudice. It’s especially hard to comprehend for those of us who never saw or experienced the humiliation of having a man talked down to as a "boy" because of his race, of having to enter through a back door, drink at a separate fountain or be spit upon and cursed at even as children.

 In today’s world, it is hard for us to understand the fear of having a cross burned on our yard by white men wearing white sheets.

 This type of intimidation thankfully does not exist in our community today, and if it did, would be met with vehement resistance.

 We are proud to say we have black men and women in leadership roles in our local government, our schools and civic organizations. We, of course, have an African-American as president of the United States — unheard of and unthought of during Ms. Williams’ younger days.

 We have come a long way, but we can never forget, nor can we let our children forget, the hate and humiliation and scorn placed on the black citizens of our community and communities throughout this country. Ms. Williams, we salute your honesty and your courage for telling it like it was.

 History should be remembered and learned from; we are grateful that our community has learned from its history and that today we are stronger for it.

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