Massie Heritage Center is hosting a rather enlightening exhibit in its historic classroom, a timely thank you to educators in Savannah! Teachers as Trailblazers in Savannah is an exhibit that spans over two hundred years and shows the commitment and achievements of educators who fought countless odds to pave the road to progress.
The exhibit begins with a deep dive into Massie’s own history, with biographical information about four exceptional teachers, Nina Anderson Pape, Lila Cabanis, Mabel Goodwin Saffold and Emma Truslow Lipps. Accompanying artifacts such as personal effects, scrapbooks, awards, and certificates create a personal touch and provide insight into those days. This section includes A Reimagined Principal’s Office, a tribute to Bernard Mallon, Massie’s first principal in 1856.
The exhibit highlights Kindergarten development in the early 1900s; the Kate Baldwin school was set up in Savannah with Hortense Orcutt at the helm, popularizing the concept of early childhood education in Savannah. A group of progressive educators in Savannah including Miss Pape and Miss Orcutt introduced new concepts to schools, inspired by the philosophy of Friedrich Froebel. They would now “educate the whole child” by introducing physical education and playgrounds, creativity, singing, free lunches, social clubs, group learning in classrooms and the provision of facilities and field trips to students from all economic backgrounds. The concepts that we take for granted today!
The section is complimented by a two unique Savannah stories about Frank Callen and Juliette Low. The two were founders of youth organizations, The Frank Callen Boys and Girls Club and The Girls Scouts USA, respectively.
The exhibit concludes with the African-American struggle for education; here we confront difficult histories from a time when secret schools existed in the antebellum south, as state law made it illegal to educate enslaved people. The display leads up to the Civil Rights era and showcases key personalities. The stoic resilience of Emma Althea Quinney, Esther F. Garrison and Westley Wallace Law tell a story of struggles toward desegregation of schools.
Teachers as Trailblazers in Savannah is housed in Massie’s historic classroom. The historic site once served as a schoolhouse to educate poor children in 1856, a hospital for union army soldiers in 1864, a Freedmen’s school in 1865 and then, one of the first public schools in the state, established by the Georgia Board of Public Education in 1866. The mid-seventies saw Massie’s conversion from Public School to Heritage Center and its Historic Classroom re-modelled as a 19th century school room.
Written By: Ayela Khuhro, Heritage Specialist, Massie Heritage Center