To be presented by The Adairsville Black Historical Society on Aug. 4, the 6 p.m. program will feature hors d'oeuvres and a discussion about the Harrises' background and influence on the area by Ahmad Hall -- Wilkins' cousin and the president of the newly formed ABHS. Open to the public, the gathering will be held at the Jackson House, 203 N. Main St. in Adairsville.
"It means a lot," Wilkins, 83, said about the society recognizing the Harris family. "I found out a lot about my family that I didn't know. ... My granddad was named Martin and I didn't know that. Ahmad -- he looked it all up for us. ... I'm just proud of all the information I've found and I know I'm going to enjoy this reunion and see a lot of people that I haven't seen in a long time."
Among the members of the Harris family who have left their mark on Bartow was Wilkins' father Daniel Harris. In 1923, he helped construct Noble Hill -- the first Rosenwald School in northwest Georgia -- with lumber that he cut from his Cassville farm.
Backed by funds from Julius Rosenwald -- a philanthropist and president of Sears, Roebuck and Co., who wanted to provide quality education for African-American children -- and the Cassville community, the school stayed in operation until the educational site was consolidated into Bartow Elementary School in 1955. Now known as Noble Hill-Wheeler Memorial Center, the venue at 2361 Joe Frank Harris Parkway in Cassville serves as a cultural museum that reveals what life was like for African-American residents during the early- to mid-1900s.
"You can't talk about the history of Adairsville without talking about the Harris family because about 90 percent of the black population are descendants of the Harris family," Hall said. "So from that point, I thought it would be a good idea to honor the Harris family and, historically, when the Harris family would have a reunion it would usually be the first weekend in August. So I kind of tried to play on that and have our event the first weekend in August. ... [At the evening program], I'm going to be [providing] a little discussion about the Harris family and their many contributions to this area, not just Adairsville, but to the whole county.
"... [An example of this is] my great-great-grandmother was named Sallie Harris Butler. She married William Arthur Butler and he had his own business on the square in Adairsville around the turn of the century. So that was pretty big. I'd also like to mention Dr. James Buchannan Harris. He was born here in Adairsville in 1901. He was the first recorded black doctor born in Bartow County. He went to Morehouse School of Medicine and he was on the board of directors until he died."
The 6 p.m. program will follow The Harris Family Heritage Day offering that will be presented from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with registration beginning at 10 a.m. To be held at the Adairsville downtown square, the event will consist of food, games and live music.
The Harris Family Heritage Day and Night programs will be The Adairsville Black Historical Society's inaugural event. With the group's membership open to the entire community, Hall's vision is for everyone with a "love for history and genealogy" to be involved.
"Around the beginning of the year, Jerri Holloway [director of the Adairsville Rail Depot Age of Steam Museum] and one of the city council members, Connie Morrow, contacted me about the idea of a black historical society," Hall said. "It's something that they said they had been trying to get together for a while but no one had shown any interest. So they said they asked around and someone gave them my name. They were surprised to find out that I was only 26 years old but whoever told them about me told them that I knew more history than anybody.
"So from there they asked me, would I like to head the historical society and I told them, 'Yes.' And that's how it started. The overall purpose is to educate not only the black community but all communities, [for people] to be aware of their families' genealogies and also to be excited about it. Because the history that we have now, [it] is very important to keep it. If we don't [preserve it] now, it's going to be lost."
The cost to attend both programs will be $30 for adults and $15 for children 12 and younger. Registration for the heritage day or night offerings will be $20 for adults and $10 for children 12 and younger. For more information about The Harris Family Heritage events or The Adairsville Black Historical Society, contact Hall at 404-437-5258.