GREENSBORO, Ga.— After more than 20 years of planning, Mamie Hillman completed a lifelong passion and opened an African American museum in Greene County.
Opening day for the Greene County African American Museum in Greensboro on Oct. 16 marked a joyous occasion for all in attendance. But for Hillman, it was the first step in encapsulating the long-overlooked history of Black leaders in Greene County.
"It all goes back to when I was a child growing up in White Plains," said Hillman, executive director of the museum. "I always wanted to know — how did I enter into history?"
Growing up in a segregated school setting, there were very few resources and only the white community had access to a public library. But teachers at her school worked to ensure students saw that Black leaders were making a difference, Hillman said.
"I just wanted to feel ownership in my community," she said. "As I got older, became an adult and had a family, I started investigating."
Her curiosity led her to read Jonathan Bryant's "How Curious a Land," which detailed the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction in Greene County. The book introduced her to Abram Colby, one of the first Blacks to serve as a Georgia state senator after Emancipation.
"I found myself in that book through the life of Abram Colby," she said, adding his story was empowering.
Similar stories could help to empower youth, Hillman said.
Her family first came up with the idea for a museum due to what they felt was a lack of culture-minded activities in the community.
"You have to go into Atlanta for everything, whether it's music or shows," Hillman said. "If we had a building, we could do that ourselves."