AA = African-Americans
African-American Heritage is a proud chapter in Bartow history.
Cass County was chartered in 1832and participated in slavery. Major John Rowland (Rowland Springs) and Colonel Lewis Tumlin were considered to be significant slaveholders of the day. Recent research has revealed that Bartow practiced largely a diverse use of slave labor beyond typical plantation cotton and farming. More current studies reflect that much of the labor, according to census and tax records, was rented out for use in timber, mining, railroad and foundry work.
Since the Civil War, Bartow African American Heritage has contributed to the county in a variety of ways, but certainly in the Civil Rights era. Considerable businesses, acreage and farms from Adairsville to Cartersville have been owned by Black Americans. Others have achieved success in such areas of education, politics and the armed forces.
Bartow has had two Tuskegee College graduates who fought in air combat. John Henry Morgan was a graduate of Summer Hill High School and became a famed WWII “Red Tail” Tuskegee Airman. He was killed in Italy in a landing accident. Lorenza Conner also graduated from Summer Hill High School. He piloted an F4-D Phantom in Vietnam and was shot down in 1967. His remains were found in 2007 and returned to Cartersville for burial at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in 2008. Reverend Jackie Beavers wrote hit rock and roll songs for the 1960’s girl group, Diana Ross and The Supremes. Ronnie Brown is a graduate of Cartersville High School and went on to play professional football with the Miami Dolphins. Andre Fluellen played with the Detroit Lions, Keith Henderson played for the San Francisco 49’ers, Vikings and won a Super Bowl championship and Robert Lavette played with the Dallas Cowboys and Adairsville High’s Vic Beasley graduated from Clemson and played for the Atlanta Falcons.
Washington King was a master bridge builder and is credited with building the Euharlee Covered Bridge in 1886.
Perhaps to date the most impressive Bartow African-American figure is the Honorable Robert Benham, Chief Justice Court of Appeals who was the first African American to be elected to a state wide public office. He attended Harvard University, UGA, the University of Virginia and became a captain in the Army Reserve. He served under Governor Joe Frank Harris and held numerous professional offices.
Another point of pride is that Bartow enjoys the very first African American State Park, George Washington Carver State Park on Allatoona Lake. John Atkinson, also a former Tuskegee Airman founded the park in the 1950’s and became the first African American park manager in the state of Georgia.
Following the election of President Barak Obama, it was discovered that Michelle Obama’s great, great, great grandmother, Melvian Shields is buried in Kingston.
Soon after the Civil War it became apparent that African Americans wanted formal education. The Nobel Hill School located in Cassville was established in 1924 as a county partnership among the black community and Rosenwald Community School Plan (A Tuskegee Funded Project). After the school closed, Dr. Suzie Wheeler, former teacher and administrator with her sister-in-law Bertha Wheeler championed to preserve the property as an African American Heritage Center.
The Cartersville City High School was first integrated in 1966. Summer Hill and Cartersville High continued a phased-in merger through 1970 to complete integration.
As a result of leadership and partnership in the Black Communities, Cartersville and Bartow County avoided the discord that affected so many neighboring counties, but instead cultivated a peaceful transition in education, public facilities and government during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
List of assorted AA Factoids
1. The “New Frontier of Bartow County” was an African-American organization formed in the early 1960′s to help peaceful integration while preserving minority identity.
2. The first African-American student to attend Cartersville High School was Danny Wheeler, son of Dr. Suzie Wheeler.
3. Brooke Rucker was the first African-American to win the Distinguished Young Women (DYW – formerly Bartow County Junior Miss) pageant and also went on to win the state DYW title in 2013. Additionally, Brooke went on to win the 2014 national DYW crown in Mobile, Alabama.
4. Hixie O’Neal was the first African American woman to become a registered nurse in Bartow County.
Bartow History Scholars Tutorial