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First Achievers honored in library wall display

Maxine Allen created an exhibit a decade ago to celebrate Black History Month after reading a newspaper article on noted African-American leaders in Lincoln County.

She wanted a way to showcase their achievements so she visited dozens of individuals, taking notes and borrowing photographs of people who were notable “firsts” in many fields — the first black policeman, the first black alderman, the first black school principal. For 10 years, she has made available information about Brookhaven’s first black achievers, the men and women who broke barriers by becoming the first to serve in positions of city and county government, law enforcement and other positions of leadership throughout the area.

Her daughter, Jennifer Allen Stenson, took the information and created narratives that were displayed with framed photographs of each honoree.

This month, a remodeled version of her labor of love dons the walls of the Vernon Room in the Lincoln County Public Library. It will be on display in the library throughout Black History Month in the Vernon Room during library hours.

The library’s Board of Trustees has partnered with Allen and Stenson to turn the displays into a lasting legacy for the community. The board hopes to put Allen’s exhibit on display each February.

Allen has spent countless hours researching notable figures either from her own recollections or suggestions from others. She enjoys the hours spent getting to know individuals who have made their mark on the area.

Allen learned much about the struggles of earlier generations through her research.

“Oh Lord, I didn’t know we went through all that. I knew, but I didn’t know,” she said.

Where Allen kept framed photographs on top of and inside display cases, the trustees — with the help of artist and consultant Kim Sessums — hung the photos and biographical name plates on the walls, giving the exhibit an art gallery feel.

Allen was pleased with the new look.

“It was alright. I loved it,” she said.

While Allen is thrilled to have a partner in the project that can take care of creating a quality display the honorees as well as the public deserves, she is happiest that she can focus on discovering additional first achievers for the exhibit.

To nominate someone for the exhibit, contact Allen at 601-748-1381.