African American History Facts
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President Cyrus G. Wiley The first alumnus of Savannah State University to serve as President of the institution was C. G. Wiley. Wiley was the second president of Savannah State. He succeeded Major Richard R. Wright. President Wiley was a native of Hilton Head Island. Once he completed the highest level of education that could be attained on Hilton Head he was sent to Savannah State to complete his secondary and post-secondary education. Wiley would later serve as a Dean at Morris Brown. A member of the African Methodist Episcopal faith Wiley was a pastor at Big Bethel A.M.E. in Atlanta, Georgia.
Mary McLeod Bethune
and Savannah The Educator, Presidential Advisor, and Co-founder of Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona, FL Mary McLeod Bethune lived in Savannah working as a Social Worker. She resided in West Savannah. She and her husband, Albertus Bethune, experienced the birth of their only child in Savannah. It was here that she was influenced to go to Florida and start a school.
Deacon March Haynes
Spy and Pilot of Freedom A deacon of First African Baptist Church of Savannah, and Crossroad Baptist Church now known as First African Baptist Church of Hilton Head Island, March Haynes and his wife operated a spy network in Savannah during the Civil War. They recruited others to serve as spies leading them into Savannah. They provided information to the Union Army stationed at Ft. Pulaski reporting on confederate activities in the Savannah area. Haynes, also, operated a maritime (water) "underground railroad". He was a riverboat pilot and used his skills to guide Africans to freedom to Ft. Pulaski and eventually Hilton Head Island, SC. He confronted death on each occasion but never turned back in guiding his people to freedom. On one occasion he was wounded as he led a group to freedom.
Black History Beginnings The first arrival Africans in this country was not in Jamestown, VA in 1619 but was in the area we know as Georgia and South Carolina. Those Africans are a part of the Lucas Vasquez de Allyon expedition. The expedition goes through the Sapelo Sound area in Georgia, through the Liberty County coast, across Hilton Head Island, and the Pee Dee River area in South Carolina. The Africans eventually join with Native Americans and successuly fight for their freedom. Africans are free in this area prior to the Pilgrims setting foot on Plymouth Rock! The Africans are in this area 1526 nearly 100 years before the Jamestown, VA arrival.
Freedom Colony and
Merikans During the War of 1812 Cumberland Island was an island of emancipation. Cumberland and Jekyll Islands had become independent African freedom colonies under the protection of the British. Many Africans escaped to Cumberland from the mainland in Georgia to obtain their freedom. After the war they would leave Cumberland Island with the British. The men would become a part of the British Royal Marines eventually settling in the "Company Villages" in Trinidad in the Caribbean. The descendants of those Africans from here (and the Virginia area) are called "Merikans."