ACCG, Georgia’s County Association, recently awarded a 2023 Georgia County Excellence Award to Walker County in recognition of innovation in county government. Walker County received the acknowledgement for its partnership with the Walker County African American Historical and Alumni Association (WCAAHAA) that led to the creation of the Walker County African American Museum and Cultural Center.
While stories of Indian removal, civil war battles, and 1800’s life are told at various locations throughout Walker County, there has always been a piece of the historic puzzle missing, a void the new museum aims to fill.
Walker County received praise for utilizing a “cost effective approach to solving a local issue.” In late 2020, resident Beverly Foster brought an idea to Robert Wardlaw, who at the time was serving as the county’s economic development director. Foster wanted to tell the story of African Americans in Walker County, a demographic that had contributed to the local community since 1539.
Wardlaw searched for a piece of county owned property that might accommodate Foster’s vision and settled on an old Long John Silver’s restaurant building that was being used for storage and an occasional community group meeting. On November 1, 2021, the Walker County Board of Commissioners entered into a lease agreement with WCAAHAA for the purpose of opening the Walker County African American Museum and Cultural Center.
Before Foster and her team could go to work, the building needed a number of repairs. Walker County’s facilities maintenance staff jumped into action, renovating the building. They added new flooring and windows, ADA compliant bathrooms and many other improvements and amenities so exhibits could be placed in the museum.
WCAAHAA formed a team of Walker County citizens and corporate partners, including Roper Corporation, to assist with the development of the museum and a future memorial park. Along with Walker County Government, partners include the National Endowment of the Humanities, the Georgia Council for the Humanities, the America History Association, the Lyndhurst Foundation, the Georgia Council for the Arts and members of the community.
On December 17, 2022, the Walker County African American Museum and Cultural Center held its grand opening with an exhibit focusing on the post-slavery history of African Americans in the region. The museum also documents important local educators and notable artists, scientists, singers, war heroes and athletes of color from Walker County.
The initiative involved in taking this museum from concept to creation required an outpouring of community support. Multiple donations helped pay for some of the initial art and historical exhibits displayed at the museum, as well as the funding of an assistant director for one year.