Thursday, March 6, 2014
A standing ovation met Elizabeth Laney and Corey Rodgers when they wrapped up their Black History Month program at First Providence Baptist Church on Feb. 25.
Laney, of Redcliffe Plantation, and Rodgers, of the Lucy Craft Laney Museum, presented their research on the Hornsby, Wigfall, Carter and Johnson families. The pair were the final part in a series put on by the Heritage Council for Black History Month.
“Corey and I have been talking back and forth for years now, I moved to the area about six years ago and got to know him,” Laney said. “We both do the same thing, we research the history of the area. At some point I emailed him to keep a lookout for the name Wigfall in the area. Now, six years ago the name Wigfall meant nothing at Redcliffe. That’s because we were still moving forward in our interpretation of African-American history. Even though we have all of these documents, all of this incredible information on the black families out there, nobody with an obsession with genealogy came along to put all the records together.”
“I get the email from Elizabeth and I sort of put it on the back burner, and then a few years later she revisits that topic,” Rogers said. “She knew the Wigfall family had become successful in Augusta, and about that time I was beginning my research into the Rev. C.T. Walker and I’d become obsessed with the Rev. C.T. Walker.
“As I was combing the newspapers, I decided I would take a little time out and see if I could find anything relating to the Wigfalls and, sure enough, the floodgates opened. One of the great research tools that we have here in Augusta, as well as the CSRA, was embedded in the Augusta Chronicle. For many, many years there was a colored section of the paper. For researchers, it makes it easy to find information on that era – the late 1800s, early 1900s. Sure enough, Dennis and Clarance Wigfall started appearing. I noticed the connection starting to take place.”
The combination of Laney and Rogers ended the longest series the Heritage Council has ever put on. The series was divided into four-parts, with one presentation each Tuesday in February.
“It was a wonderful success,” Brenda Baratto, president of the Heritage Council, said of the Black History Month Series. “This is the first time we did such a lengthy series. It was long overdue.”
The series, which averaged around 40 people in attendance, allowed the Heritage Council to introduce a more in-depth look at Black History Month.
“This series gave us a better understanding of what work we still need to do to share history,” Baratto said. “It also gave us an opportunity to go into more detail and reach more people. We’re hoping to have more programs next year (for Black History Month). We want to do a whole session on the Wanderer in 2015. History is patient, but when it decides to dump on you, watch out.”
Coming up in the summer, the Heritage Council will bring back the Sweet Tea Series with a look at North Augusta via trolley rides.
“SouthStar Trolley and the Sno-Cap are helping to bring back the Sweet Tea Series,” Baratto said. “On June 22, a Sunday, we’re going to have a trolley ride to look at entertainment in North Augusta. It’s a one-hour tour and you don’t have to get off the trolley. This will be a three-part series, with rides in July and August. Those other rides will include looks at the historic churches – black and white, and then a look at people and places.”
For more information on the Heritage Council, email Brenda Baratto BBaratto@aikencountysc.gov or call 803-642-2015.
T.J. Lundeen is a reporter for the North Augusta Star. Follow him on Twitter @lundeentj for more updates.