Gertrude “Ma” Rainey Pridgett (1886-1939) is considered the “Mother of Blues.” Columbus, Georgia was her home which is where she was born.
She started performing by the age of 14 and began touring as part of vaudeville and minstrel shows. Known for her dynamic performances, Ma Rainey made a name for herself as she toured the country.
The Ma Rainey house, now a museum, was the home that Ma purchased for her mother and where she moved into upon her return to Columbus. Initially, the home was the typical shotgun that can still be seen in the neighborhood, but Rainey had a new two-story home built. She lived there until her death in 1939. The house was saved from demolition by neglect by committed Columbus preservationists. It was put on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 1992.
Ma Rainey rests in Porterdale Cemetery, which was once known as the Colored Cemetery. It was put on the NRHP in 1980.
Opened in 1924, the Liberty Theatre was a segregated theatre that hosted Ma Rainey and other Black artists. Rainey eventually purchased the theater. It was put on the NRHP in 1984.
Alma Thomas (1891-1978) was a Black artist known for her colorful and impressionist work. Born in Columbus, Georgia, she and her family lived there until she was sixteen. In 1907, they relocated to Washington, DC to escape the racial hostility and threats of violence that were directed towards the Black community at the hands of whites.
She was considered a member of the Washington School of Color. A lifelong art teacher, she was the first graduate of the art department at Howard University.
This is Amanda America Dickson, who became one of the wealthiest African American women after her father left his wealth to her. This was an unusual act because most white planters did not recognize the children born of the women they enslaved. Dickson’s relatives contested the will, but the Georgia courts ruled in favor of Ms. Dickson.
The plantation where Amanda was born and her mother, Julia, was enslaved still exists in Sparta. I’ve been told that the house shown is the house that Amanda Dickson lived in with her mother and sons. It sits on Dickson Plantation on the outskirts of Sparta. David Dickson owned significantly more land than what makes up the modern day Dickson Plantation.
Through the woods, near the plantation, is the St. Paul’s CME Church where Julia worshipped. If you visit, you will notice the graveyard is filled with Dicksons. The mother is buried there, but she seems to be without a headstone because I’ve been unable to locate it in my visits. The congregation is still active with a newer brick church down the road from this building.
After winning her court case, Amanda moved to Augusta with her sons and mother and lived in the yellow home on Telfair Street. Amanda married Nathan Toomer (Toomer was the father of Jean Toomer, the author), but she died only one year after they got married.
Her funeral was held at the Trinity CME Church in Augusta. Her final resting place is in Cedar Grove Cemetery in Augusta. Even though her husband remarried, he rests next to Amanda.
This is a small look into Amanda’s life. There is a book about her life written by Kent Leslie. There’s also a movie, starring Jennifer Beals of Flashdance and L-Word fame, called “A House Divided.” It’s available via YouTube.
Located in Marietta, Georgia, JonBenét Ramsey’s (1990-1996) final resting place is in St. James Episcopal Cemetery. I am always fascinated by what people leave as mementos for the departed. While I took this photo a few years ago, it is clear still visit her regularly to pay their respects. As I write this, the 25th anniversary of her death is only a few days away. It does not seem that 25 years has passed since her murder captured the nation’s attention.