Living Democracy

Savage hopes to bring new museum to Washington County

Micki Savage, a local historian in Washington County, has worked for more than 10 years to educate the community about African American history. Active in many organizations, she founded the Prestwick Preservation Society and is now working toward building a museum to celebrate local black history.

Savage aspires to build an African American Museum in Washington County to bring history alive with tangible items and documents. While many know about national historical figures, Savage said more should be known about local history.            

“In this entire area, in this entire county, there’s no place for children to actually come and learn about black history,” she said. Having a space to teach kids about African American history is so important, Savage said, because it could bring people together in a way that is only offered through understanding and education.

Savage has more than a hundred photos of Prestwick High School, a Rosenwald school built in 1922. This school was an important educational institution for African Americans in Washington County. She also owns artifacts and documents from the Hunter Benn lumber mill, a mill started by Scottish immigrants that led to the expansion of Prestwick.

Savage said the museum could also highlight local historical figures like Mahala Martin, the first African American woman in Alabama to own land in the 1820s. She explained this was unheard of at the time because women could not own land in the state until 1887.

The museum, she said, could also celebrate more recent achievements. For example, she noted that the current Washington County flag was created by a black 16-year-old in 1976 who developed it for a contest during American’s Bicentennial.

Savage said many of the disconnects and misconceptions about the black community are related to a lack of education about history and how past oppressions translate directly to today. “400 years of oppression, 400 years of not allowing us to have anything, allowing us to have decent housing, decent education, that aided what you see now,” Savage said.

She added, “And the ones who actually made it, they made it in spite of being told they couldn’t have this loan, in spite of being given this outrageous interest to build a house, in spite of being told you can’t go to this school.”

Savage said many problems grew from the effects of past prejudice and obstacles related to redlining, employment discrimination and other policies that still have an impact today. Savage said she believes if people understood the history of how African Americans were treated and how those things have affected today’s conditions, racial divisions could be eased.  

To learn more about the Prestwick Preservation Society, visit https://prestwickps.org/. If you want to support Prestwick Preservation society or the establishment of an African American Museum in Washington County, contact Savage at mizznews@gmail.com.

By Thomas Chapman
Last Updated: August 16, 2020