Black Family History

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The contributions of African Americans are recorded in several history books but rarely are the stories of black history told by black historians. A small town in Georgia decided to preserve this heritage as told by the descendants of the men and women who helped build their community. Reed Galin reports.               

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(Locator: Gainesville, Georgia)

A walk down memory lane in Gainesville, Georgia is filled with discoveries.

Linda Rucker Hutchens/Co-author, Hall County Georgia: “Mrs. Rena Bush, she not only had the boarding house but that she was over a cooking staff at Brenau College, that she had all of these business endeavors.”

Residents of this Atlanta suburb have a growing collection of stories about the men and women who built their community.

Ella Jean Smith/Co-author, Hall County Georgia: “Dr. Butler lived one street over from me. It was very easy for you to go to the doctor. Knock on the door and he would come out, see his patient and go back home. He made house calls.”

The book, Hall County Georgia, includes stories like that of George Stephens, the well-to-do tailor who loaned money to the city and Brenau College in the 1920s. Citizens formed the Gainesville-Hall County Black History Society to preserve this rich heritage from an African-American perspective.

James Grady Brooks/Member, St. Paul United Methodist Church: “In my kids’ generation there was a disconnect. Everything is mostly the now. You just exist in the now. There’s no connection, or very little connection, between the past and the future.”

Brooks wants young African Americans to appreciate their history and its landmarks, including the building where the historical society meets--St. Paul United Methodist Church. This is Gainesville’s oldest church still in use today. These members hope their work will inspire African-American leaders of the future.

James Grady Brooks/Member, St. Paul United Methodist Church: “Know where you came from, know where you are and aspire to go somewhere.”


St. Paul United Methodist Church was founded by former slaves in 1876. The church was also used as a school for African-American children before formal schools in the town were constructed. For more information on the Gainesville Black History Society, contact Ella Smith at or call the church at 770-536-4910.