Georgia Teacher Bringing Southern Heritage Into The Classroom
In Thomasville, Georgia, Randy Young wears many hats. He is a weekly columnist for the local newspaper, lead vocalist and guitarist in two bands, the radio voice of Thomas County Central High School football, and is the director of the broadcast & TV production department at the high school.
And, for the last eight years, he has helped bring Southern history to life in the public school classrooms of South Georgia by making actual relics from the War for Southern Independence available to public school teachers through a nonprofit organization he founded.
The South Georgia Relic Resource Library, Inc., is headed up by Young. Through it, teachers can bring actual items from the war years into their rooms to bolster their efforts in getting kids interested in history, and all at no cost. The only "payment" expected is that those teachers challenge their students to go home and find out about their own heritage.
""The purpose of this library is really twofold, " Young states. "First, I want young people to seriously consider their heritage, regardless of what that might be, and not to be ashamed of it – rather to make themselves better for it, stronger for it. That’s why we require teachers to issue that challenge of going home and asking questions. Second, we want to attempt to have a shred of the truth of the proud history of the South and all of her people injected into the classroom. Children learn so many untruths about our region, and in turn their own blood. There can be a challenge issued to young people to seek the truth, but they have to be told that many times the real truth – not the perceived truth – has to be sought outside their books."
Each relic is accompanied by a detailed history of its orgins and possible uses. Young says the experience of holding an actual relic from the war years can be a powerful experience for young and old alike.
"So many times items like these are protected behind glass cases in a museum," he continued. "I like to call this an ‘interactive museum,’ since these are museum-type relics that people can actually touch, feel. To know these things were there, and that they are now right there in your hands…well, it can be quite moving, and that’s what we want. We want it to have an impact that won’t quickly go away."
Young started the library after a visit to Gettysburg with a group of teachers. When several black teachers in the group seemed uninterested in the story of the battle, a resourceful park ranger went into action.
"He could see these ladies weren’t really into it, so he brought out an old musket and let them hold it," he recalls. "Then he asked them to look at this huge photograph of these dead soldiers on the battlefield there, and told them that the musket they were holding belonged to one of the men in the picture. It really imacted them, and I thought, ‘hey, why couldn’t this be done in a regular classroom?’ And that’s when I got motivated to start it."
Items currently in the library inventory includes muskets, swords, pistols, currency, bullets, artillery shells, accourtrements, flags, personal items, and an extensive collection of Confederate-themed art.
"We have had tremendous support from the artistic community, particularly John Paul Strain, David Wright, Don Troiani, Mort Kuntsler, and Rick Reeves among others," Young adds. "We have a great collection of works from all these men and others that we hope to be able to put together with the relics one day to create a very unique kind of educational experience."
Along those lines, Young sees the library developing into a full-fledged War Between the States history and heritage center for Southwest Georgia in the near future.
"That’s where I see this heading," he said. "Combining these relics and the artwork together to show how the items were used is a goal. I’d like to create a place where people in this region can go to learn exclusively about the war years, and what motivated their ancestors to be a part of it, whatever that part might have been. We don’t have anything of the sort within a hundred miles of here, so there is a need for sure."
In the end, Young sees the library as having an important role in the lives of the young people it will touch.
"Oh, there is no doubt about the effect this has on some young people," he concluded. "We’ve had young men join the Sons of Confederate Veterans after they found out they had Confederate ancestors they never knew about until they were asked to find out. No, it won’t work all the time, but we have to do something, otherwise so much of our history and heritage will just fade away. We can’t allow that to happen, if we can help it."
If you would like to support or learn more about the South Georgia Relic Resource Library, Inc., please email Randy Young at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (229) 228-1397.