March 4: Thurmond and Sherrod Headline Black History Bowl Celebration at the Morton

Please join us on Saturday, March 4, 2017, for the Annual Athens Area Black History Bowl Celebration at the Morton Theatre, starting at 1 p.m. (doors open at 12 noon).This program is free and open to the public but requires a ticket. During the event, local writer Earnest Thompson will give a brief talk on why we should study history.  Also, during the celebration, we’ll kickoff the inaugural Michael L. Thurmond Black History Lecture Series. Special guests, in addition to Mr. Thurmond, will include farmers’ rights activist and author Shirley Sherrod.

Appointed during the Obama administration, Mrs. Sherrod in 2009 became the first black Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture. She was forced to resign after a conservative blogger posted on the internet a deceptive and selectively-edited video of her speech. However, upon full review, White House officials apologized for the firing and offered Mrs. Sherrod a new position.  Previously, she won a $12 million racial discrimination suit against USDA.

Native Athenian Thurmond is the Chief Executive Officer of DeKalb County. His latest book, Freedom: Georgia’s Antislavery Heritage, 1733-1865, was awarded the Georgia Historical Society’s Lilla Hawes Award. The Georgia Center for the Book listed Freedom as one of The 25 Books All Georgian’s Should Read. He presently serves on the Board of Curators of the Georgia Historical Society.  A Story Untold: Black Men and Women in Athens History is the primary source for the Bowl’s local black history questions.

Honorees will include education-and-community activists Dr. Willie and Mrs. Tommie Farmer of the Clarke County NAACP; radio talk show hosts and parenting experts Mr. Valdon and Mrs. Shirley Daniel; radio personality Barbara “Lady B” Sims; andDr. Ivery Clifton, a Vietnam veteran and retired professor emeritus of agricultural and applied economics at the University of Georgia, where in 1994 he became the school’s first African American dean.

The March 4th celebration also will include youth recitals and the screening of Arc of Justice: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of a Beloved Community. The 20-minute film chronicles Mrs. Sherrod’s work with a black farmers’ land trust as they struggled for racial justice and economic empowerment in southwest Georgia. Autographed copies of her memoir, The Courage to Hope: How I Stood Up to the Politics of Fear, will be available for purchase. Mrs. Sherrod’s visit to Athens is supported in part by the Athens Land Trust.

Immediately following the program, a reception will be held at the First AME Church Fellowship Hall. For free tickets to the program and reception, call the Black History Committee at 706-247-6777 or the Athens Land Trust at 706-613-0122, or email us at

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