MILLEDGEVILLE — Black History Month gives communities a chance to celebrate the rich history of African-Americans by acknowledging their accomplishments and the impact those actions have had on events thereafter. For Baldwin County, J.F. Boddie High School serves as an instrumental part of African-American and local history, carrying with it fond memories for alumni and examples of educational progress for the community.
The school was named for Dr. Julian Franklin Boddie Sr. who distinguished himself in the community by becoming the only African-American medical doctor that served Baldwin County and surrounding communities.
“It began in a small black community west of the Fall Line of the Oconee River in an era of segregation, civil rights, ambition, and politics,” said James Finney, author of “The Making of Milledgeville: The Pictorial History of Baldwin County” and Boddie High alum. As he reflects on the history of Boddie High, he recalls a time when education for African-Americans was scarce.
“At one time, the law prohibited anyone from teaching blacks to read or write,” said Finney. “After the Civil War ended in 1865, the war department organized the Freedmen’s Bureau to establish schools for blacks.”
According to Finney, the main function for the Bureau was to help African-Americans get over the rough spot of the aftermath of the Civil War by helping them receive a proper education.
Education for African-Americans in Milledgeville began in the later part of the 1860s. Eddy High School, founded in 1867, was where Sallie E. Davis served as one of the school’s teachers and later became principal. J.F. Boddie High opened in 1956. Joseph Graham led the school as principal.
“Boddie High school faculty looked upon the students as their legacy to get ahead in a segregated society,” Finney said. “They encouraged us to excel in extracurricular activities as well as in academic work in order to plan for a college career.”
The high school closed in 1970 due to reduced federal funds; however, 46 years later the Alumni Class of 1966 erected a historical monument that was unveiled last December. The newly established historic marker reflects the impact education had on Baldwin County. Many alumni members from Boddie High have become vital leaders in the community. Johnnie Wilson, Victim’s Advocate for Baldwin County, said a few words as both alum and a local resident.
“I consider it an honor to be part of the history of Boddie and I thank everyone for this monument. Whether it’s a school board member or the teachers who taught us, everyone who laid hands on Boddie high had a part in making this historical moment so special.” Wilson said on the day of the monument’s unveiling.
J.F. Boddie High is yet another example of the importance not only African-American history, but history as a whole. Understanding how a community was shaped helps to know how to move forward to a better tomorrow.
“The end of a good thing is always sad. We can always look back, but in order for things to continue improving, we must look forward together,” Finney said.
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