By Pam Henman
On November 9, the Georgia Historical Society (GHS) recognized Historic Oakland Foundation (HOF) with an award honoring the organization’s historic programming event, Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours.
During a private ceremony at historic Oakland Cemetery, GHS presented HOF with the Roger K. Warlick Local History Achievement Award. The awards recognize GHS affiliate chapters that demonstrate outstanding achievement in the field of public history across four categories: programs, exhibits, archival excellence, and media projects.
Offered during two weekends in October, HOF’s Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours are an Atlanta tradition and the only opportunity for visitors to experience the city’s oldest public cemetery after dark. Now in its 11th year, the tours present a rotating cast of characters who — through historical re-enactments — bring to life the stories of a few Oakland residents.
“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by Georgia’s premiere historic preservation institution,” said Mary Woodlan, director of special events at HOF. “We share this win with all of the staff, volunteers, attendees, sponsors, and supporters who help make Capturing the Spirit of Oakland possible.”
During the most recent Capturing the Spirit tours, HOF raised more than $7,500 to help restore the final resting place of a trailblazing African-American woman, Dr. Beatrice Thompson, and her sister Estella Henderson. Dr. Thompson graduated from medical school in 1901 before setting up a practice in Athens, Georgia — a rare accomplishment at the time for a woman, much less a woman of color. During her lifetime Dr. Thompson championed fellow entrepreneurs and invested in Athens’ first African-American-owned pharmacy. Dr. Thompson’s sister is buried next to her and was similarly accomplished. Estella Henderson was a lawyer and professor at Atlanta’s Morris Brown College.
HOF saw an unprecedented outpouring of support for Dr. Thompson and Mrs. Henderson. In 2015, visitors donated more than $2,400 to erect a headstone for William Jasper “The Goat Man” Franklin, and in 2013, more than $2,000 was raised for madam Abbie Howard to get a headstone. Any overage not used for repairing the Thompson lot will be used to further the restoration of the African-American Grounds, one of HOF’s large-scale restoration projects in 2017.
In 2015, HOF was named GHS Affiliate Chapter of the Year for its exceptional work in the field of public history. Past Warlick award recipients include: the Bulloch County Historical Society, the Cherokee County Historical Society, and Historic Augusta, Inc.