The rich history of Liberty County was highlighted this past week with a ribbon cutting signifying the re-opening of the Independent Telecommunication Pioneer Association (ITPA) Museum last week, and the opening of a new exhibit at Dorchester Academy that was more than two decades in the making.
For 21 years the Dorchester Academy has been working towards the day they would be able to open the former African American school with an exhibit of its importance to the Liberty County community and nation.
This past Friday a ribbon cutting was held in front of the former school ushering in more than two decades of fundraising and repairs. The new exhibit called the Civil Rights Movement at Dorchester highlights all the work done at the Center for the Civil Rights Movement which included several visits and stays by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“We are standing on Holy ground,” said Hermina Glass-Hill Curator for the Civil Rights Movement at Dorchester exhibit. “We are standing in the room where Dr. King was. Where Dr. King, who sacrificed most of his life, gathered with other African American leaders to plan for Civil Rights, justice, equality, for not just African Americans but for everyone. His spirit is felt all throughout this building.”
Glass-Hill said the exhibit is designed to tell the story of the Civil Rights movement much of which happened at the historic Dorchester Academy Boys’ dormitory center.
“Dr. King selected this place in which to plan for the Birmingham Campaign,” she said. “Not only that but the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, of which Dr. King was President, they selected this as the site of one of its longest running programs which is the Citizens Education Program run by two phenomenal African American women Septima Clark and Dorothy Cotton.”
Glass-Hill said the Civil Rights Movement is one of those watershed moments in American History.
“Here we are more than 150 years after the Civil War exhibiting this story and the long road to the Civil Rights Movement from slavery until now,” she said. “We stand on the shoulders of so many that have come before us and that struggle for Civil Rights and access to the ballots.
The exhibit tells the story of Dr. King and his three-day retreat to plan their Birmingham march. Visitors will also learn about the women behind the Civil Rights Movement which Glass-Hill said are often not talked about.
The new exhibit was primarily funded by the annual Walk to Dorchester as well as donations received from other sources.
According to a press release issued by the Liberty Chamber of Commerce, Mayor (emeritus) William Austin welcomed all in attendance and expressed his great appreciation to all those who have worked so hard to make the opening of the new exhibit possible.
Chamber Board Chair, Jimmy Shanken, thanked all those in attendance. Shanken stated, “I am so happy to be here for the cutting of this ribbon at such a historic facility.”
Chairman Donald Lovette, Liberty County Board of Commissioners, also expressed his gratitude for all in attendance. He said, “Thank you for your valued work to preserve the wonderful history of Dorchester and for telling the story that needs to be told.”
The new exhibit is open Tuesday-Friday 11a.m. until 2 p.m. and from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Last Wednesday another historic location held a ribbon cutting letting the community know they are open once again and waiting for visitors.
The ITPA Museum sits in the center of Hinesville at the site of former Senator Glenn E Bryant’s home at Bryant Commons.
The museum pays tribute to one of mankind’s greatest invention, the telephone.
Ronnie Cashwell, the Historical Foundation President said the museum had been shut down for 15 months due the pandemic. He said while they were closed, they used the time to make several upgrades to the museum exhibits.
“Our organization is 100 years old,” he said. “We are trying to preserve the history of telephony, and also by bringing in all the artifacts that we have, it will allow people who did not grow up in the era of switchboards and phones, to see what it was like…all they know now is the cell phone, but we started out with plugboards.”
Visitors to the museum can learn how calls were placed in the early days by dialing a rotary dial phone and watch the mechanics place a call. The museum includes exhibits of hundreds of phones from throughout the ages including a handset which belonged to Alexander Graham Bell.
In a press release sent from the Chamber of Commerce, Shanken congratulated the ITPA Board members and Alissa Moss and expressed his excitement on how the renovations turned out. “Our community is full of such a vibrant culture, it is an honor to be here,” Shanken stated.
“We are really proud to be here in this home with lots of history,” Cashwell added. “We have a great team and group of volunteers that work hard, and we are just so grateful to have you all here.”
The National Office and museum currently occupy the former home of Glenn E. and Trudie Bryant.
Bryant started the Hinesville Telephone company in 1946 which later became Coastal Utilities and continues today as Century-Link.
Visit the museum Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. The museum is located at the entrance to Bryant Commons Park on 438 West Oglethorpe Highway.