From the Liberty County Convention and Visitor's Bureau:
If you’re looking for a peek into the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. that others may not know about, the best place to visit is historic Dorchester Academy. This National Landmark has a museum filled to the brim with African-American history and was once the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement in Liberty County.
Established by the American Missionary Association in 1870, Dorchester Academy became the first place of education for newly freed slaves in Liberty County. Physical freedom had been granted and Dorchester’s mission was to grant freedom of the mind. The school flourished and by 1903, enrollment was above 450.
Although the school closed in 1940, it continued to be a source of education, as it functioned as the primary site of the Citizenship Education Program, sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. It would go on to be a very important site for the planning meetings for “Project C”, the March on Birmingham. Dr. King, along with other Civil Rights activists including Andrew Young, Dr. Ralph Abernathy and Septima Clark coordinated their efforts using Dorchester Academy as a base of operations.
The history is palpable to anyone who visits there now, but Liberty County residents in the 1960’s may not have realized the impact Martin Luther King, Jr. would make on Liberty County or the nation. Dorchester Academy provided a place of respite for him from the looming Civil Rights battle underway. The museum on-site now houses artifacts from his time there, and the room where he stayed in the boys’ dormitory is preserved and open to the public for viewing. The extensive collection of various artifacts and documents gives details of the journey of African-Americans in Liberty County from slavery to emancipation to the Civil Rights Movement and into the present day.
Liberty County residents cherish and preserve this history and celebrate it annually.
Of the events that surrounded Liberty County’s 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations over the weekend, one was held in the place where King himself once stayed.
That was Saturday’s annual MLK Leadership and Grand Marshal Breakfast at Dorchester Academy in Midway.
There, many gathered to celebrate King’s life and legacy.
According to Rev. Alvin L. Jackson, president of the Liberty County MLK Jr. Observance Association, it is important to continue remembering King because of the significance of his nonviolent movement for equality and justice for all people.
The organization hosts the breakfast to involve leaders in the celebration and remind them that they have a duty to continue the fight for everyone to have basic rights.
“We expect these leaders to fight for freedom, justice and equality in the roles they play in our community,” Jackson said.“If our leaders aren’t involved there wouldn’t be progress, but our leaders are involved.”
County Commissioner Marion Stevens Sr. and Midway Mayor Levern Clancy welcomed attendees to the historic building and thanked the committee for hosting the program.
Both Liberty County Board Chairman Donald Lovette and Hinesville City Manager Kenneth Howard focused on the significance of Dorchester Academy.
“Dorchester has played a role in not just the history of Liberty County but in the history of America,” Lovette said.
Dorchester Academy is where Dr. King planned the Civil Rights Movement and wrote part of the “I Have a Dream” speech. He visited often for periods of refreshing and relaxation to be inspired.
“That isn’t often told of him sitting in a twin bed right here at Dorchester in Midway, Ga planning what we call now the Civil Rights Movement,” Howard said.
The keynote speaker for the event was Rev. Christie Conyers, Youth Pastor at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Hinesville. She talked to the audience about “The Blessing of the Blueprint.”
Conyers compared a building blueprint to the metaphorical blueprint of our lives.
“Nothing can be well erected without a blueprint,” Conyers said. “It should be designed so well that another builder can pick it up and design exactly what the architect created. We need to apply the blueprint of Dr. King as a plan for betterment. Those who follow the blueprint can create great things that impact nations.... that’s the blessing in the blueprint.”
She encouraged the audience to think about what has molded them and what is left to do.
“We are all part of the plan and all part of the blueprint. Take the time to discover your role,” she said.
The 2018 breakfast was sponsored by Edna S. Walthour. All donations collected benefit the Liberty County MLKOA Scholarship Fund which provides $10,000 worth of scholarships to local seniors each year.