Mr. Avery, who was an educator in Bainbridge, GA from the 1930s through the 1980s, filmed daily life in Decatur County between the 1930s and 1950s. His 16mm “home movies” document small town parades, political speeches and rallies, downtown Bainbridge, and classes at an African-American vocational school in southern Georgia. The collection contains important footage documenting agricultural harvesting techniques no longer practiced. There is also film from the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, and of Franklin D. Roosevelt receiving an honorary doctorate at the University of Georgia in 1939.
Mr. Avery produced a short film called "Footsteps of Progress in the
Flint River Valley" that is a compilation of silent footage he shot in
black & white and color. The film features agriculture, education,
business, and religion in Decatur County and Southwest Georgia. Mr.
Avery pushed hard for the peanut business in Decatur County. Avery gave
away bags of peanuts constantly until his death.
Another of Avery's passions was cane grinding which there are examples of in his footage. This was an annual event for his friends and neighbors. Sugarcane would be ground - the cane would be put into a grinder - and a horse going in a circle around the grinder would grind the cane. The sugar cane was then boiled to evaporate the cane juice and concentrate the sugar content. This required continuous boiling for 3 to 4 hours the juice must then be skimmed and clarified throughout the cooking process to create cane syrup. It would be bottled for use later on pancakes, biscuits, or used in cooking.
There is the concentration of teaching work or survival skills in the footage such as the National Youth Administration camp that shows a program for young white woman teaching them farming, canning, sewing, washing etc. The NYA operated from 1935 to 1943 as part of the Works Progress Administration which was the largest and most comprehensive New Deal agency. The NYA operated numerous programs for out-of-school youth. By 1938, it served 327,000 high school and college youth, who were paid from $6 to $40 a month for "work study" projects at their schools
Mr. Avery was a Baptist his entire life and he was a longtime member of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church which appears in his footage along with every other church in the county and the Temple located in Bainbridge. He was also an active member of the Gideons and according to his obituary gave out almost as many bibles as he did peanuts.
Also included in this amateur footage is a hospital built in Bainbridge by African American physician Dr. Joseph Howard Griffin. There is a book about Dr. Griffin called Under the Knife written by his great-nephew Hugh Pearson who was curious as to how a black physician managed to wield so much power in pre-Civil Rights movement in the south. Dr. Griffin built a small hospital for blacks in the 1930s and in the early 1950s built a larger hospital for $250,000 of his own money.
About The Collection:
The Andrew Avery Home Movie Collection is a unique treasure documenting the people and events of Bainbridge, Georgia and Decatur County from 1934 to the early 1950s in over 8000 feet of film that lasts for over 200 minutes. The collection consists of 23 rolls of 16mm black and white and color Kodachrome film.
Mr. Avery was a 1929 graduate of the University of Georgia. In 1996, the family of Andrew Avery donated his film collection to the Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection. This collection brings to life images from Georgia’s past, and shows a history of rural America that is sometimes neglected in history books.