The City of Savannah’s Municipal Archives is a massive trove of history. And this week, in partnership with Georgia Southern University, it posted a new online exhibit “Jim Crow in Savannah’s Parks,” examining how Savannah denied Black people access to the best public parks and recreational facilities — and how Black taxpayers paid for a superior park system for whites.
The multimedia work was prepared by Jeffrey M. Ofgang, an intern with the City of Savannah’s Municipal Archives who now holds a Public History Graduate Certificate from Georgia Southern University. The exhibit utilizes the city archives to show how segregation manifested in planning documents, news stories, city code, meetings and engineering department work for parks, playgrounds, pools, sports, and cemeteries. Hosted by GSU University Libraries, the exhibit can be accessed at https://georgiasouthern.libguides.com/savannahparks.
It’s fairly common to hear long-timers say Savannah had a progressive reputation when it comes to segregation, having avoided violent reactions to integration. And historians have noted that, as well. However, these documents make it clear that racial segregation was codified and intentional. Take something as straightforward as park benches. City officials ordered them moved to stop Black people from enjoying them. Planning documents also show that park and recreational facilities like Grayson Stadium, the home of Savannah’s minor league baseball team where greats such as Babe Ruth played, were designed and engineered for segregation.
The historic journey shows official change arrived only after public action through economic boycotts and the ballot box.
The Tide brings news and observations from The Current’s staff.