The city has a black population of close to 2,000 people. Over the weekend, Acworth officials celebrated their history in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Cobb's six cities are planning separate celebrations this year, honoring the Cobb branch of the NAACP.
Acworth's annual Black Historic Homecoming Celebration began on Sunday with a worship service at Bethel AME Church, which dates back to 1864 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Softball games and an outdoor musical concert were conducted Saturday and an adults night out was on Friday.
City officials in separate ceremonies on Sunday recognized two of the Acworth black community's landmarks that stand both as reminders of segregation and community celebrations. The old Rosenwald School at 4410 Cherokee St. and Roberts School at 4681 School St. have been converted from 20th century schoolhouses into social gathering spots.
It was a far cry from just several years ago. Cobb NAACP President Deane Bonner remembers when Acworth didn't even officially celebrate the nationwide Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
"I'm very pleased that the city of Acworth has decided to bestow this honor on us," said Bonner in accepting on Sunday a proclamation honoring the NAACP's anniversary from Acworth Mayor Tommy Allegood. She recalled going to Allegood a few years back and threatening to protest if the city didn't recognize the King holiday.
"Your mayor said to us, 'Deane, cool it. Wait a minute. Give us a chance. We'll make it right,'" she recalled to a crowd at the Roberts School. "I want you to know at the next city council meeting the mayor got a unanimous vote for Acworth to become a city that celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King."
Celebrating black history in Acworth didn't stop then. On Feb. 12, the city had an NAACP Day to honor the nation's oldest civil right's organization.
"When Deane Bonner speaks, I listen," Allegood said with a laugh.
In the early 1900s, Sears Roebuck and Co. president and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald built over 5,300 schools for blacks in the South. Acworth's Rosenwald School was constructed in 1924 on School St. Funds came from Acworth's black residents, the city, Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee Institute and the Rosenwald Fund. When it was threatened with demolition, the two-room schoolhouse was dismantled and reconstructed at its present location.
Since 1953, it has served as a social hall for the city's black community. Kennesaw State University's Public History Program assisted Acworth in creating an exhibit to tell the story of the Rosenwald School. The city now owns and maintains the building.
In 1947, the Roberts School was built on the former site of the Rosenwald School. In 2002, the city utilized a community development block grant to renovate and turn it into a community center.
"It has become the heartbeat of our community," Allegood said. "There are more planned, educational and civic activities right here, in this building, day in and day out, than any other property owned by the city."
Acworth Alderman Tim Houston remembered being a fourth-grader at the Roberts School in 1968 when it closed for the opening of the integrated Acworth Elementary School. After that, it was vacant for years and at one time housed the North Cobb Health Center.
"This school has a lot of memories for me," Houston said.
At 2 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Rosenwald School, KSU will be collecting old photographs and other relics connected to the school for its history project, Allegood said. The city of Acworth asks anyone with such materials to share them with the university.