Modern Revelations of Local Black History

By Lillian Wan

Happy 40th Anniversary, Metro Courier!

The Metro Courier newspaper was founded/published/edited by Barbara Gordon in January 1983 as the County Courier.  It became the Metro County Courier in October 1984 before it changed to the current Metro Courier.  Ms. Gordon was the first female founding publisher of a black publication in Augusta.  It just celebrated its 40th anniversary.  An announcement was made on Feb. 1 that Ms. Gordon will turn over the publishing reins to Michael Meyers.  News noted that Ms. Gordon will continue to “provide guidance.”  Mr. Meyers has been involved in local media and currently serves as political and community expert on WFXG FOX54, as well as providing columns to The Augusta Press.  His first issue as publisher began with the Feb. 2 issue.

The First Black Archaeologist and Augusta

Dr. John W.I. Lee of USC-Santa Barbara published his book on John Wesley Gilbert in spring of 2022.  The first Black archaeologist:  a life of John Wesley Gilbert.  Dr. Gilbert was the first black student at then Paine Institute, the first black graduate and then the first black faculty member.  Before his service as faculty, he had furthered his education at Brown University.  He then became the first black person from America to receive a scholarship to the American School of Classics in Athens, Greece.  Dr. Gilbert became the first black archaeologist.

Marshall Abuwi

Marshall Abuwi had attended then Augusta State University and worked at Reese Library starting in 2003 as a student assistant in his quest for more education.  He became a part time reference assistant in 2008.  Marshall had also taught in the History, Anthropology and Philosophy Department of Augusta University as an adjunct history professor and had also taught American and World History classes for the USG eCore program.  He had retired back in August 2022.

His affiliations included:  Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.; Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity, Inc.; and Sigma Tau Delta Honor Society

Marshall had self-published books about his great grandfather Booker T. Washington under Marshall’s author name of Marshall Washington-Cabiness Abuwi that included:

“Booker T. Washington and Adult Higher Education.”  Philosophy, Practices and Research Strategies.  Blurb, Inc., 2015

“Booker T. Washington and the Black Revolution.”  Blurb, Inc., 2015

“Booker T. Washington for a New America:  Are We There Yet?”  Reflections of His Great-Grandson, a Historian.  Reality Books, Grovetown, GA, 2019

His blog where he wrote part of his biography back in 2011 is still online at:

Marshall passed away last year on November 8.  His nearly two decades of work at Reese Library has been missed.

“HBCUs:  A conversation for Black History Month” was hosted by and filmed in Reese Library in 2021.  Marshall, Dr. John Hayes of AU History/Anthropology/Philosophy and Mr. Jeffrey Jones of Paine College were recorded.

The 6 Triple 8

President Biden signed the Congressional Gold Medal bill for the 6888th Battalion on March 14, 2022.  WWII’s only all black and all female military battalion that deployed overseas had trained for four months before sailing out in early 1945.  It included Augusta sisters Essie Dell O’Bryant and Tessie Theresa O’Bryant who had lived in the Sand Hills neighborhood near Summerville.  Both sisters and other family members had been graduates of Haines Institute.  Tessie had been in her third year at Paine College when she broke off to register for the war along with Essie and an older sister, Ida, in February 1943.  Essie had gone with her sisters at the same time to register but had been found underweight.  She had to wait until the following month before she gained enough weight of 15 pounds to join the Army.  Tessie and Essie and the other women worked in both England and France to clear a backlog of 17 million letters and packages in months.

For more information on the monument for the 6 Triple 8 which includes the listing of all 855 service women of that battalion, see the web site of:

To see and hear Ret. SSGT Essie O’Bryant’s interview with the Library of Congress, visit:

Watch for a new Netflix movie on the 6 Triple 8.  Tyler Perry’s script is based on Kevin M. Hymel’s article published in 2021 in the WWII History magazine.  Perry filmed and directed the movie that includes Kerry Washington, Oprah Winfrey, Sam Waterston and Susan Sarandon.

MLB, The Negro Leagues, and Phillip Cockrell

The Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. announced on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020:  “We are now grateful to count the players of the Negro Leagues where they belong:  as Major Leaguers within the official record.”  (CNN)  That means they will correct the MLB history to include about 3,400 players of seven leagues of the Negro Leagues from the time period of 1920-1948.  The Negro Leagues had begun in 1876.  But the Negro Leagues were officially formed Feb. 13, 1920 by Rube Foster.  (Negro Leagues Museum)

Phillip Cockrell was born as Phillip Williams in Augusta in 1895.  He graduated from Paine College.  Cockrell was the first pitcher in the Negro Leagues World Series in 1924.  That series was also referred to as the Colored World Series.

1970 Augusta Riots

The Georgia Historical Society (GHS) marker for the May 11-12, 1970 riot was delayed due to COVID until it could be installed September 20, 2020 by the GHS, the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History and The Augusta Riot Observance Committee.

More information by the GHS was noted at:

Web site produced in 2020 by a committee while 50th anniversary events for the 1970 riots had only been virtual around May due to COVID-19.  One of the committee members is Dr. John Hayes, history professor in the AU HAP department.  

Look at the web site link to their Facebook page with recorded new video interviews with folks with direct knowledge of the 1970 riots, including interviews that had not been documented elsewhere.

For the summer to early fall of 2020, the Jessye Norman School of the Arts students and their podcast teacher Sea Stachura, in partnership with Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB), produced the podcast “Shots in the Back: Exhuming the 1970 Augusta Riot.”  Per PBS introduction, the podcast “tells the story of one of the first major Civil Rights era riots in the South.  The riot happened in Augusta, Georgia from May 11-13, 1970.   The immediate cause was the murder and mutilation/torture of Charles Oatman, an African-American teenager held in the county jail.   During the riot, six black men were killed by white police officers, all of them shot in the back one to nine times each.  Much of Augusta’s black business district was also set ablaze, including many white and Chinese-American owned businesses.”  This is the same Sea Stachura who had taught at ASU/GRU.  The podcasts were broadcast June 29 to Sept. 14.  To listen to the podcasts and to see the transcripts, go to the web site of:          


Scroll down to the bottom to Sea Stachura’s photo to click to get to the page where the transcripts can be found.

In May 2021, the podcast was selected as regional award winner of the 2021 Edward R. Murrow Journalism Award for Excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. 

Dr. LeJeune Hickson-McDonald’s local Black history coloring book

April 2017 reprint of privately printed coloring book by Dr. LeJeune Hickson-McDonald first produced decades ago.  It was reprinted for the opening of the Laney Memorial Building as a replica of the original Cauley-Wheeler Building on the campus of the Lucy Craft Laney Comprehensive High School at Laney-Walker Blvd.  It’s the first known locally produced coloring book of true black history.  Look at the Reese Library copy up in the Special Collections room.

Dr. Leslie J. Pollard’s Segregated Doctoring

Segregated Doctoring:  Black Physicians in Augusta, Georgia, 1903-1952 by Dr. Leslie J. Pollard.  Charleston, S.C.:  Palmetto Publishing Company, 2018. Also on Kindle. 

Dr. Pollard is a retired history professor from Paine College.