Sometimes I feel as if I take for granted the fact that I live in the 21st Century. Think about it – back in the day, there were Civil Rights issues, suffrage disputes, and all sorts of serious debates about the rights of the people. Now, just look how far we’ve come? I was born and raised in a society where this was all the norm; everyone coexists in an equal society, regardless of race or gender. I know there are modern rights issues even today, but…can you imagine what it must have been like living during the World War II era and before?
The Centerville Public Library and the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust wants to take you back to that historical time when racial equality issues were at their peak. I’m sure all of us remember from our history classes that the Holocaust was the brutal persecution and execution of millions of Jews. Basically, the Germans saw them as “racially inferior,” and were an alien threat to the “superior” German community. Many of us will also remember that World War II was going on during this time, and that African Americans were being treated as inferior to Caucasian Americans as well. This exhibit brings together these persecutions into one very informative and emotionally moving display of history. The “Witness to the Holocaust” exhibit is a photographic essay of one of Atalnta’s leading African-American Citizens, William Alexander “W.A.” Scott III, whose father founded the first black-owned daily newspaper in the United States. Like so many of his generation, W.A.’s dreams for the future were postponed when the US entered World War II. W.A. fought valiantly, even though things weren’t really “separate but equal” within the Army at the time. Nevertheless, many of the black soldiers rightly felt that, by fighting alongside all the other soldiers for democracy, surely the US would see and recognize similar issues within their own country. As we all know, it was definitely recognized.
While fighting in Germany, W.A. could hardly overlook the irony of his own status in an army that considered them inferiors, even as they fought to defeat the Nazi army which carried the banner of racial supremacy. With his camera, W.A. documented the atrocities for which the Nazis were responsible against the Jews at Buchenwald. It is many of these photos that are now owned by the Georgia Commission of the Holocaust and serve as realistic depictions of our history.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” Even W.A. himself recognized that you can’t fight hate with hate. He quietly photographed his experiences in Germany and fought with our US Army, helping to pave the road for equality. Scott himself was a member of the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust and died in 1992 at the age of 69.
W.A.’s photographic essays will be on display at the Centerville Public Library from August 12-23. You may drop by anytime during our regular business hours to view the exhibit.