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February 18, 2013

Boddie High holds special place in local African-American history

MILLEDGEVILLE — Black History Month gives communities a chance to celebrate the rich history of African-Americans by acknowledging their accomplishments and the impact those actions have had on events thereafter. For Baldwin County, J.F. Boddie High School serves as an instrumental part of African-American and local history, carrying with it fond memories for alumni and examples of educational progress for the community. 

The school was named for Dr. Julian Franklin Boddie Sr. who distinguished himself in the community by becoming the only African-American medical doctor that served Baldwin County and surrounding communities. 

“It began in a small black community west of the Fall Line of the Oconee River in an era of segregation, civil rights, ambition, and politics,” said James Finney, author of “The Making of Milledgeville: The Pictorial History of Baldwin County” and Boddie High alum. As he reflects on the history of Boddie High, he recalls a time when education for African-Americans was scarce.

“At one time, the law prohibited anyone from teaching blacks to read or write,” said Finney. “After the Civil War ended in 1865, the war department organized the Freedmen’s Bureau to establish schools for blacks.” 

According to Finney, the main function for the Bureau was to help African-Americans get over the rough spot of the aftermath of the Civil War by helping them receive a proper education. 

Education for African-Americans in Milledgeville began in the later part of the 1860s. Eddy High School, founded in 1867, was where Sallie E. Davis served as one of the school’s teachers and later became principal.  J.F. Boddie High opened in 1956. Joseph Graham led the school as principal. 

“Boddie High school faculty looked upon the students as their legacy to get ahead in a segregated society,” Finney said. “They encouraged us to excel in extracurricular activities as well as in academic work in order to plan for a college career.”

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