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[graphic] Dorchester Academy Boys' Dormitory

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Dorchester Academy Boys' Dormitory
Photo courtesy of Georgia Department of Natural Resources, photographer: Jeanne Cyriaque, GA Dept. Natural Resources African American Programs Coordinator

Dorchester Academy Boys’ Dormitory is located in a rural area of northeastern Georgia, within the town of Midway. Dorchester Academy was founded by the American Missionary Association (AMA) following the Civil War as a primary school for black children. Once a part of a sprawling school campus, the boys' dormitory is the only remaining structure to survive from the boarding school era. The current boys' dormitory dates from 1934. In 1932 a fire destroyed the 1890s building and the American Missionary Association, which at that time owned the school, rebuilt the boys’ dormitory. The Dorchester Academy Boys’ Dormitory is a two-story, rectangular building designed in the Georgian Revival Style. The building is of brick construction. The entrance to Dorchester is framed by an iron gate sponsored by the class of 1927 with the words “Dorchester Academy” inscribed over the top. Two historical markers are situated at either end of the gate. Located to the northeast of the dormitory is a brick church built in 1963 and a concrete block cottage built in 1947 to house the church pastor, but was later used by the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC.) This building is currently used as the Dorchester Academy Museum of African American History.

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[photo] Dorchester Historical Markers and Dorchester Museum
Photo courtesy of Georgia Department of Natural Resources, photographer: Jeanne Cyriaque, GA Dept. Natural Resources African American Programs Coordinator

Dorchester Academy is nationally important as the primary site of the Citizenship Education Program sponsored by the SCLC between 1961 and 1970. The citizenship training program was responsible for educating thousands of southern African Americans about their rights as American citizens, and providing them with the necessary skills to pass voter registration tests. Dorchester is also associated with the planning meetings for the Birmingham campaign. During a two-day retreat in January 1963, eleven top SCLC officials met to discuss Project “C,” Wyatt T. Walker’s blueprint for a coordinated attack against segregation in Birmingham, one of the South’s most staunchly segregated cities. For nine years Dorchester Academy served as the main training site of the Citizenship Education Program, and during that period was successful in establishing 897 citizenship schools throughout the South by “providing full citizenship through education.” The property is also associated with civil rights activist Septima Poinsette Clark, whose vision and grassroots organizing made the Citizenship Education Program successful. Considered the “queen mother of the Civil rights movement,” she was responsible for developing the citizenship educational model and overseeing the program from its inception in 1956 until 1970, five years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. By developing and empowering local African Americans, the citizenship classes galvanized local African American leaders to participate in the great Civil Rights movement.

 

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