Newsman Turns to History for Second Career
The Trail of Tears has fascinated UWG graduate student Jeff Bishop for years.
“It’s a difficult subject,” said Bishop, a former newspaperman who is working on his master’s in history. “It brings us mixed emotions about this place we love.”
Jeff Bishop and Chief Smith
Bishop is also president of the Georgia chapter of the Trail of Tears Association, which researches, interprets and preserves sites related to the forced removal of the Cherokee people from their lands in the Southeast to Oklahoma in 1838 and 1839.
When Bishop, who worked for newspapers in Rome and Newnan, decided it was time for a second career he turned toward his passion for history. He will graduate in 2013 with his master’s and a certification in public history.
“I was drawn to the idea of the power of place,” he said. “There are some places that need to be recorded and preserved. That really is the drive behind my work. I hate to see Georgia lose these places. I don’t want them to fall to the steamroller of development. …My volunteer work with the Trail of Tears Association morphed into my profession. I’m very grateful.”
This semester Bishop is working as a graduate research assistant in UWG’s Center for Public History, which has a partnership with the National Park Service for further research on the Trail of Tears.
Among the projects he’ll be working on is an investigation of a log cabin which is within the historic Green Hotel in Cave Spring. Researchers believe the cabin was constructed by the Cherokee in the 1830s. The age of the bricks puts the cabin in the time period of the Cherokee removal, he said.
UWG geosciences professor Georgina DeWeese is working with Bishop and other students on the project. She wood core samples to try to date the structure. The cores will be compared to other cores taken from trees throughout the Southeast that are in a shared computer database. If the wood core analysis and documentation Bishop gathers prove the cabin is Cherokee structure it may be added to the Trail of Tears, another tool to teach others about the forced removal.
Spreading the knowledge about the sites is important, said Bishop, 43, who is also writing and shooting photographs for a tourist brochure about the Trail.
“We basically had ethnic cleansing right here in the U.S. You had a whole group of people forcibly removed by armed men because we wanted their land. It’s important we face up to that. You might say it was a long time ago. But it was a few decades before the Civil War.”
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