CVL Launches New Digital Exhibit To Share and Collect Untold Stories

Chattahoochee Valley Libraries’ Columbus, Georgia: Hear Us Talking is a new digital exhibition focusing on the stories of traditionally marginalized peoples and their impact on Columbus, Georgia’s history. This free online exhibit features innovative ways for the public to access our complex local history while also making it possible for the Columbus community to contribute to the Columbus Public Library’s Genealogy and Local History Collection.

“Columbus, Georgia: Hear Us Talking” showcases a timeline that puts Columbus’s history into the perspective of the history of the United States. The exhibition also aims to feature community figures and provide context to the impact they had on our history.  One iconic example is local legend Lieutenant Stevens who arrived at Dinglewood Pharmacy in 1944, which is towards the end of World War II and before the Civil Rights Act of 1965. Columbus remembers Lieutenant Stevens and his legendary scrambled dogs so fondly, and we are proud that we can share his story.

Also of particular note for this new exhibition is the history of Mildred Lane Rivers Terry who was the first Librarian of the Fourth Avenue Library, which opened in 1953 as the first public library for Black people in Columbus. The impact Mrs. Terry had on our community is the focus of the page including an oral history by Deborah Clark. Mrs. Clark speaks about her journey from using the Fourth Avenue Public Library as a child to working at the Mildred L. Terry Public Library as a Library Associate. Both personal and powerful, her story details her experience of more than 35 years of employment and how she and the dedicated staff of the Mildred Terry branch have worked to carry on a long-standing and uncompromised tradition of service for all. More untold stories are needed, and with additional submissions from the local community, staff can embed oral histories in the exhibit that feature lived experiences of Black history in Columbus to be archived not only for the local community but for research purposes worldwide.

CVL Librarian Whit Gaines, who helped oversee the development of the project shared, “It was vital that local community members needed to be involved in the creation of the exhibit from the very start. We organized a Community Advisory Board consisting of local historians, genealogists, and customers with lived experiences. Community members Alfonso Johnson, Zach Jakes, Linda McCardle, and Dalton Royer assisted with fact-checking and user testing before launch. They also added personal experiences and submitted items for digitization such as commemorative artifacts that helped make the exhibit a collaborative success.

Gaines also recalled, “When reviewing the exhibit, Alfonso Johnson was thrilled to see his cousin Primus E. King’s story told for the current generation.”  In 1944, Primus E. King walked into the Muscogee County Courthouse during the all-white Democratic Party Primary where he was accosted by a white police officer and not allowed to place his vote. Primus King walked three blocks to the office of attorney Oscar Smith Sr. and hired him to sue the Democratic Party. Primus won his suit in 1945 which helped set precedence for other all-white primaries around the United States.

When researching historical houses for this project, staff found multiple instances where resident Charlotte Frazier advocated for the historical preservation of Black history in our area. Inspired by her advocacy, the exhibit details and includes an acknowledgment of Frazier’s vital work including the preservation of the Spencer House, the Liberty Theatre, and the Ma Rainey House. Naming local community members like Charlotte Frazier is important for uplifting the voices and work of marginalized groups.

While digitization provides free and open access to materials that might otherwise be challenging to find or fragile to handle, digital exhibits give library users the tools they need to make sense of these materials in context.  Whit Gaines furthered,” We live in a beautiful city rich in architecture and history, but many do not know of the sacrifices of those who helped build that history. This exhibit brings awareness and respect to the history we unknowingly walk or drive by every day.”

CVL encourages local residents to become involved by submitting information to the local history timeline, submitting items for digitization, or by sharing an oral history. Current major events in Columbus that will have a lasting impact on our history are also considered, such as photos of the Black Lives Matter marches held in various locations around Columbus in 2020. Detailed information about how to make submissions can be found on the “Share Your Story” page on the exhibit homepage.  Additional inquiries can be emailed to

This digital exhibition, the first of its kind for Chattahoochee Valley Libraries, was produced in conjunction with the Digital Library of Georgia as part of the Georgia Public Libraries DigEx program. The DigEx program empowers libraries to tell the stories of their communities through online digital exhibits using the Omeka S platform.