The History of the Garland Community
This month, I have taken it upon myself to delve back into the history of a community of people that have long been an integral part of the makeup of Bowie County. The Garland Community holds a special place in my heart because of the people there, and the exceedingly impressive spirit that lives there.
Many years ago, Colonel Iverson Shavers and Jenna Benton gave me a front row seat to the marvelous history of the community. They allowed me to take part in their annual reunion, giving me a brief moment in time in a place where pride, strength and passion lives and is seen through the successes and achievements of those whose roots are buried in the sandy soil of the community.
I recall fondly the many hours I sat on a sofa in Jenna Benton’s front room, hearing the tales of the past, the exploits of the present and going through countless photos chronicling the history of the families descended from slaves. She would invite others over while I was there so they too could tell me their stories.
The Colonel could also talk for hours about those who paved the way for the successes of today, and he always spoke with a reverence about those who had endured so much to blaze a trail to freedom, stability and above all else, education. I do not believe I ever met a man, or a group of people, that were so enthralled about the importance of getting an education. Every singe family member I met in those days had a story about someone who had soared to lofty heights on the wings of education.
So many of the members of the Garland Community would live their adult lives devoted to educating others. Even as I research and write the words for this series of stories, it is impossible to overlook the importance of education to the families of the community. Colonel Shavers spoke always about education, and was always so proud to tell me of the achievements of his children. The same held true for Jenna Benton. Dr. Raynard Kington, even now a leader at one of the country’s most prestigious schools, is quoted as saying that he believes the importance of education was the driving factor in the community’s rise from slavery to middle class status in just one generation.
This series of stories is of such importance to me as a journalist. It is one of those things that I will lose sleep over, worry about, pray about, and those facts are because it is a story that has to be right. Telling the history of a people such as those from the Garland Community is so much more than just another story. It simply must be right. I could do no less for my friends Colonel Iverson Shavers and Mrs. Jenna Benton.
I hope you all enjoy the series. It begins inside the pages of this week’s issue. It would not be possible without the help of Barbara Holloway, the editing help from Lt. Colonel Michael Shavers, Dr. Kington, and the inspiration for it all, Dr. Mattie Shavers Johnson, who at 100 years old, should be an inspiration to us all.