Historic Oakland Foundation’s Halloween tours win Georgia Historical Society award

Georgia Historical Society president and CEO Dr. Todd Groce, HOF Executive Director David Moore, and HOF Director of Special Events Mary Woodlan

Georgia Historical Society president and CEO Dr. W. Todd Groce, HOF Executive Director David Moore, and HOF Director of Special Events Mary Woodlan

On Wednesday, Nov. 9, the Georgia Historical Society (GHS) recognized Historic Oakland Foundation (HOF) with an award honoring the organization’s historic programming event, Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours.

During a private ceremony at historic Oakland Cemetery, GHS presented HOF with the Roger K. Warlick Local History Achievement Award. The awards recognize GHS affiliate chapters that demonstrate outstanding achievement in the field of public history across four categories: programs, exhibits, archival excellence, and media projects.

Offered during two weekends in October, HOF’s Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours are an Atlanta tradition and the only opportunity for visitors to experience the city’s oldest public cemetery after dark. Now in its 11th year, the tours present a rotating cast of characters who — through historical re-enactments — bring to life the stories of a few Oakland residents.

“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by Georgia’s premiere historic preservation institution,” said Mary Woodlan, director of special events at HOF. “We share this win with all of the staff, volunteers, attendees, sponsors, and supporters who help make Capturing the Spirit of Oakland possible.”

Volunteer LaDoris Davis portrayed Dr. Beatrice Thompson during Capturing the Spirit of Oakland.

Volunteer LaDoris Davis portrayed Dr. Beatrice Thompson during Capturing the Spirit of Oakland.

During the most recent Capturing the Spirit tours, HOF raised over $7,500 to help restore the final resting place of a trailblazing African American woman, Dr. Beatrice Thompson, and her sister Estella Henderson. Dr. Thompson graduated from medical school in 1901 before setting up a practice in Athens, Georgia — a rare accomplishment at the time for a woman, much less a woman of color. During her lifetime Dr. Thompson championed fellow entrepreneurs and invested in Athens’ first African American-owned pharmacy. Dr. Thompson’s sister is buried next to her and was similarly accomplished. Estella Henderson was a lawyer and professor at Atlanta’s Morris Brown College.

HOF saw an unprecedented outpouring of support for Dr. Thompson and Mrs. Henderson. In 2015 visitors donated over $2,400 to erect a headstone for William Jasper “The Goat Man” Franklin, and in 2013 over $2,000 was raised for madam Abbie Howard to get a headstone. Any overage not used for repairing the Thompson lot will be used to further the restoration of the African American Grounds, one of HOF’s large-scale restoration projects in 2017.

In 2015 HOF was named GHS Affiliate Chapter of the Year for its exceptional work in the field of public history. Past Warlick award recipients include: the Bulloch County Historical Society,  the Cherokee County Historical Society, and Historic Augusta, Inc.