Black History Month: Athens native hits the big screen

WAFF's Margo Gray reports in this Black History Month feature
Published: Feb. 23, 2022 at 6:34 PM CST
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ATHENS, Ala. (WAFF) - This Black History Month several members of the Athens community packed out Cinemagic theatre, not to watch the latest box-office hit but for a blockbuster documentary premiere based on one of the most famous people to come out of their city.

"Coming Through the Fire"
"Coming Through the Fire"(WAFF)

“Coming Through The Fire,” is based on a book written by prominent scholar and writer, Dr. C. Eric Lincoln. It looks back on his young life, raised by his grandparents in Athens. In his own words, the documentary shows how he confronted racial oppression during the Jim Crow Era.

It steered his life, later becoming Dr. Lincoln where he taught culture and religion at Clark-Atlanta, Vanderbilt and Duke Universities. The documentary was produced by the Athens-Limestone Community Association.

Between showings, WAFF 48 News Anchor Margo Gray sat down with one of the producers, Carolyn Williams, to talk about the many lessons in Dr. Lincoln’s story.

“Look at all the degrees, look at all the things that he did, the people he taught,” said Williams “Just because we have a rough beginning, doesn’t mean you go through life feeling sorry for yourself, get up and do something about it.”

Athens City Councilman Frank Travis was a major player in getting Dr. Lincoln’s story to the big screen as a fellow producer.

“While we can concentrate on the horrific things that happened to him in his life, he overcame those things from the support he had from Trinity High School and his family,” said Travis.

“Dr. C. Eric Lincoln is the most famous person to ever come out of Athens, that nobody in Athens knows about just because of his books, the 20 books that he’s written,” said documentary producer John David Crowe with Innovative Media Pros..

Dr. Lincoln’s education journey started at Trinity High School in Athens. Part of the 1959 building has been renovated and still sits on the former site of Fort Henderson.

Right after the civil war, the school was established in May of 1865 by the American Missionary Association.

“Mary Wells had come down from Michigan, hoping she would have an opportunity to teach the former slaves.”

Every Trinity graduate from its inception to desegregation and integration is included in Author and local Historian, Charlotte Fulton’s book “Holding the Fort.”

“The first students were from age 5 to age 75, maybe even older. Some came to just learn to read the bible, some came to learn to read their contracts so they could negotiate for work and not get cheated in the stores and some came for an education,” explained Fulton.

Trinity was before its time, having an interracial faculty who put themselves in great danger to teach.

“The white teachers here were discriminated against. The white community didn’t have a lot to do with them,” added Fulton.

It is a passion project for Fulton, to retrace history.

“I just think the whole world needed to know, I don’t think its just local history,” said Fulton.

Fulton’s book, as well as the documentary, serves as a fundraiser for phase two & phase three at the Trinity - Fort Henderson site.

The goal is to raise funds for a memorial park to remember the black, union soldiers who were captured at Fort Henderson and eventually restore the

“It is so important to know your roots,” said Williams.

“Coming Through the Fire” will be shown virtually on March 12th at 6 p.m. via Zoom. {Link: 2568304660 | Password: 1225}

The book “Holding the Fort: A History of Trinity School in Athens, Alabama 1865-1970,” by Charlotte Fulton can also be purchased at the Limestone County Archives. All proceeds will go to the Athens Limestone Community Association

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