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Remembering District V

Ms. Dews, Rhonda B, and TaMara P

1940’s Camping gear

District V with friends and vintage coke bottles.

What a nostalgic setting to remember District V and honor their field representative,
Ms. Phyllis Dews. The Archives/History committee prepared the Sunday afternoon Tea at the Auburn Avenue Research library in Downtown Atlanta. The Tea’s location was significant to the troop’s beginnings. Their second office was only four buildings down at 143 1/2 Auburn Avenue in 1945 on the second floor of the former Poinciana club. Music from the by-gone era played softly, Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the child,” Jackie Wilson’s “Lonely Teardrops,” and Martha & the Vandellas’ “Quicksand” to name a few. Round tables draped with white linen with whimsical retro Girl Scout centerpieces decorated the intimate affair. When the honored guest arrived, everyone stood and applauded. As she took her seat, she said, you all have really done it.

The celebration continued to the next phase onto the third floor for the Community panel discussion, which was open to the public. A second installment of “The District V” exhibit greeted visitors in the room: vintage Girl Scouts Handbooks, Camping Gear, Black and White snapshots including a Girl Scouts founder, Juliette “Daisy” Low portrait. Campfire songs and a short silent video featuring Bazoline Usher played as people filled the room. There was not an empty seat.

The introductions were given by the library programs director, Morris Gardner. Short presentations given by the Greater Atlanta Girl Scout council, Brenda S. and Archives/History committee, Linda B.
The three member panel included former scouts, Dr. Roslyn Pope, Mrs. Celestine Bray Bottoms, and Ms. Phyllis Dews. Senior Ambassador Scout of Troop 1368, Arianna served as moderator for the discussion. Each panel member answered questions on camping, cookie sales, and obstacles being the first black troops in Atlanta.
Ms. Dews explained the challenges of the times. She described how on first her camping experience with 50 scouts at Camp J.K. Orr in Lovejoy, they were confronted by a rogue group of white men with guns asking where was the integrated campgrounds. Their camp director was white. The men escorted her off the grounds. Ms. Dews said she pondered all through the night about the camp director’s well being and how she had promised the scouts’ parents their daughters would be safe.
Mrs. Bottoms candidly remembered hayrides and a traditional camping treat. She explained I was a city girl and had never been on a hayride. She added we made S’mores with Oh, Henry candy bars. “Our S’mores had nuts,” she exclaimed.
Dr. Pope described how she became Georgia’s Girl Scouts All State camper in 1953. I don’t think Alaska and Hawaii were states at the time she began. But she went to say everyone marveled how I represented Georgia, the only Negro at the All States event in Wyoming.
A young former scout asked did you all sell cookies like we do now. The three answered no. But their fellow scout sitting in the audience said,”Yes, we sold cookies.” She also named every member from their troop.
In closing we pinned each panel guest with a 100 year Girl Scout pin given by council and awarded them a certificate of appreciation from the “Friends of the Auburn Ave Library.” Girl Scout council member, Mary F. removed her very own Girl Scout scarf that she wore to give to Ms. Dews – Girl Scout sisterhood.

If you would like the view the first installment of “The Lives of District V : The untold story of Atlanta ‘s first African-American Girl Scout Troops,” please visit the Greater Atlanta Girl Scouts Headquarters at 1560 N. Allen Rd. in Mableton from 10 – 6 pm Monday – Friday.
We thank “The Atlanta Daily World” for covering District V. Without their reporting; District V’s story would truly be untold.

Link to the video stream of discussion.

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Atlanta’s First Black Girl Scouts Event

Atlanta’s First Black Girl Scouts: The Untold Story of the District V Girl Scout Troops
Community Discussion
Sunday, June 10, 2012. 3:00 p.m.

The Auburn Avenue Research Library will host Atlanta’s First Black Girl Scouts: The Untold Story of the District V Girl Scout Troops. This community discussion will highlight the experiences of Atlanta’s first African American Girl Scout troops, and honor the achievements of Bazoline Usher, Phyllis Dews, and Roslyn Pope.

Usher led the group of African American women who founded Atlanta’s first troops for girls of color in 1943.  Dews was the second Field Director of District V. Pope was the 1953 Senior Girl Scout All State Camper and had numerous accomplishments in her Girl Scout career.

This event will also include displays of photographs, Girl Scout memorabilia, pins and vintage uniforms pieces from the 1940 – 50’s that reflect  District V’s achievements in scouting.

Girl Scout Troop 1368 in period uniforms. Picture courtesy of Rhonda Barrow.

A Senior from Troop 1368 at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta will be in a uniform from that era and serve as moderator for the discussion. This picture was taken at their cookie booth sale on Girl Scout Sunday, March 11, 2012.

The Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History is located at 101 Auburn Avenue, NE, Atlanta, GA 30303; Tel: 404-730-4001. All events are free and open to the public. We hope to see you there!

District V Exhibit: First African American Girl Scouts in Atlanta

First African American Girl Scouts in Atlanta Exhibit

There is a new exhibit at the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta Headquarters in Mableton, Georgia in honor of Black History Month. It is called “In The Lives of District V- The Untold Story of Atlanta’s  First African-American Girl Scout Troops.”

1940s Girl Scout uniform

The Greater Atlanta Chapter History/Archives committee features the stories from the first Atlanta African-American Girl Scout troops that began in 1943.  The showcase displays 25 items including photographs of Girl Scout memorabilia.  Pins and vintage uniforms pieces from the 1940 – 50’s reflect District V’s achievements in scouting. Part of the area covered by District V included the Auburn district of downtown Atlanta.

There are more than ten black and white photographs in the exhibit. Some are from The Atlanta Daily World newspaper and one is from a Jet Magazine photo shoot that featured 1953 Senior Girl Scout All State Camper, Roslyn Pope. Replicas of Miss Pope’s uniform with badges are also included.

Girl Scouts Thanks Badge

Miss Bazoline Usher in 1943 headed 25 to 30 African-American women to start troops for girls of color, which became District V.  Miss Usher worked many years with the Girl Scouts.  She received Girl Scouts’ highest honor, the “Thank You” pin, in the mid 1940’s.  The pin, also known as the Thanks Badge, is displayed along with Miss Usher’s photograph. There is a list of other honorees awarded this pin for their exceptional service that benefited the entire Girl Scout council.  It is a gold filled and enamel medallion on a blue grosgrain ribbon.

District V Girl Scout Troop counting out cookie profits

District V in their first year as Girl Scouts placed second in cookie sales in Atlanta.  A photograph from the The Atlanta Daily World depicts scouts and Troop Leader with cookie boxes and counting their profits.

Girl Scouts from District V were able to experience camp life at Camp J.K. Orr in Lovejoy, Georgia, which was rented from the Boy Scouts of America.  A brochure called Camping for me (1963) promotes District V’s first official campsite in Carver Park. The George Washington Carver State Park is the first Georgia state park for African-Americans.  Carver Park neighbors Girl Scout Camp Pine Acres on Lake Allatoona near Acworth. Some other artifacts include a sample size tent as well as a cookie case from the 1960s. A timeline which highlights the many historical events in Girl Scouts District V concludes the exhibit.

The exhibit is located in the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta Service Center, available Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, and on weekends during events. Be sure and go see it while you are there! If you were a Girl Scout in District V, we would love to hear from you! Contact Margaret Paschal at 770-702-9411 or at mpaschal [at] gsgatl.org. [link not included to reduce spam]

Special thanks to Rhonda Barrow, Sue Belden, Denise McGill, Margaret Paschal and TaMara Powell for creating this educational and interesting exhibit.