For the traveler, it's the recreation
that may come to mind first. That is impressive and becoming
more so in the future. There are currently four cabins and two
suites in the plantation house where you can go for a peaceful
retreat. The lake is a thing of beauty where you can contemplate
the wonders of nature. It's an island of tranquility in today's
madcap world. Whether you are a couple seeking a romantic
getaway , a family seeking a safe vacation where all ages can
enjoy nature or a group needing an inspiring event facility,
this is the place for you.
But this is so much more than just a
vacation getaway or conference event. The name Resora envisions
the concepts of
resilience, restoration, resource, and resonance.
|Civil Rights Bus at Albany
Civil Rights Museum
The story is long and convoluted. Resora
grew out of the concept of New Communities, a commune of African
American farmers in the heyday of
the Civil Rights Movement.
the 1,638-acre Cypress Pond. originally a slaveholding
plantation founded by the Tarver Family and later an exclusive
hunting lodge owned by millionaire, Gerald Lawhorn.
It is believed that Confederate President Jefferson Davis
was once an overnight guest at the plantation. How such diverse
models came together is stranger than fiction.
Shirley Sherrod and her husband,
Charles, were key figures in the fight to gain equal rights for
African Americans in Albany, Georgia in the 1960s. That part of
the story is told
eloquently at the Albany Civil Rights Museum. The movement began
in 1961 with a visit by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. The
original plan called for him to give just one speech at
Shiloh Baptist Church. The
one speech accelerated
into three back and forth between Shiloh and Mt. Zion Missionary
Baptist Church across the street. He so inflamed the hearts of
the people that they began to march and protest discrimination.
|Rutha Harris sings one of the
Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church along
with a 12,315 square foot museum space adjacent to it comprise
the Albany Civil Rights Institute. On a recent visit there, I
had the privilege of meeting several key figures in that
struggle. Ms. Doris led out tour. She lived thought the marches
and sit-ins n Albany and was able to give us the feelings as
well as the facts. Freedom
singer, Rutha Harris, later performed for us in Mt. Zion
Missionary Baptist Church.
She sang some of the songs that were prevalent during the
Civil Rights marches. One song she taught us to sing along with
was called "Oh Pritchett, Oh
Kelley" referring to the sheriff and the mayor of Albany and the
jailing of Black activists.
It was a little later in the visit when I
met another important figure in the Albany Civil Rights
Movement, Shirley Sherrod. Shirley
is the kind of person who you know immediately has no hatred in
her heart for anyone. As
Shirley saw the Jim Crow Laws crumble, she witnessed a different
version of racism. White farmers evicted Black sharecroppers who
took part in marches or registered to vote. Black farmers were
Charles, Shirley and other civil rights workers saw a
need to do something to change the system. They traveled to
Israel and studied the kibbutzim there and saw a workable
system. They returned to Georgia and, in 1969, founded New
Communities, a collective based on the kibbutzim where
dispossessed minority farmers could own and work the land
collectively. With 5,700
acres under cultivation, it became the largest minority owned
property in the nation.
Naturally there were some problems and acts of terrorism
aimed at the successful farers but by and large they were
surviving, selling their produce from trucks and to local
stores. The severe droughts in Georgia in the early 1980s did
what terrorists and racists could not do. It pushed New
Communities to the edge of bankruptcy. The USDA refused New
Community, along with other Black farmers, a loan to establish
In 1985 they lost everything.
It was a knockout blow.
|Shirley Sherrod explains
New Communities was down but not out,
however. In 1997, a
class action discrimination suit was filed that led to an
eventual settlement for farmers who had been discriminated
against . There were so many ups and down that Shirley said, "I
had given up hope when finally, on the night of July 8th, our
lawyer called saying 'Shirley, Shirley. Have you heard. We won!'
I'm thinking I'm about to hear 'Good news, we won: bad
news, we were awarded a dollar.'
I said 'Is it at least a million dollars? She said, 'No
it's twelve.' My husband and I cried that night and the next day
we started pulling people together that were connected with the
case. We made sure those families who were displaced got a
$100,000 apiece and then we started looking for land."
|One of Resora's cabins nestled
in the woods
The Sherrods, and Shirley
in particular, have been the public face of New
Communities for so long many people erroneously believe they are
the ones who purchased and own Cypress Pond. Shirley made it
very clear, it is not "their" property. They are just directors
of the corporation. It belongs to the entire collective of New
New Communities has expanded its purpose. It created
Resora which is composed of three elements, the Preserve, the
Village and the Farm. The
Preserve is dedicated to
nature and man's place in it. There is abundant wildlife, the
cabins, a campground, 85 acre Cypress Pond with boardwalks and
fishing docks, hiking and biking trails and the cabins.
|One of the cabin interiors
The Farm is the collective of Shirley's
long-ago dream. It is already producing, thanks to the
picturesque "Pecan Alley" filled with rows of stately pecan
trees planted long before anyone dreamed of Resora. There will
be resident farmers and "You-Pick-It' orchards.
Naturally the Farm will have fields for experimentation
and instruction. It will be a place where those who want to work
the land can come together and reap just rewards for their
efforts regardless of race or creed.
The Village is still a work in progress.
Presently it offers the magnificent plantation home perfect for
conventions and events with its tree-shaded lawn. Future plans
call for a restaurant, inn, welcome center and possibly a
chapel. It will be the public face of Resora.
When we visited, we were shown not only
what Resora is now but what is to come. Shirley states her
vision for Resora, "I envision a place where we can both farm
the land and enrich the minds of people."
Charles Sherrod and Emory Harris
Resora is already doing just that.
Several events have already been held there. On our visit there,
our party stayed in luxurious cabins and main house suites.
The food and wine was first class. Musical entertainment
was provided by Charles Sherrod and Emory Harris, Rutha's
brother. Both men had melodious voices that melded perfectly
together. We were enthralled by the storytelling of Geraldine
Hudley. When I retired to my cabin, the view of the lake from
the porch was one of life's most soothing experiences.
Resora is wonderful today but it is also
a living, growing project. Director of Hospitality, Danielle
Blackwell sums up the feeling Resora offers as a promise for the
future. She said, "People have visited here and said to me 'I
can hear the former people that were here.'
I want you to not just listen with your ears but listen
with your heart and imagine what will be here a year, two years,
three years from now."
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