Columbus State University Community Geography Class Welcomes Peace Prize Laureate

During the first day of Dr. Amanda Rees’ Community Geography class, students welcomed the former president of Liberia and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Madam Ellen Johnson Serleaf. This surprise visit was arranged as part of a local documentary film project on the descendants of families who emigrated to America from Liberia just after the Civil War. Madam Johnson Serleaf and her son, an emergency room physician has been instrumental in supporting this project. Together, both students and visitors learned more about the history of the project, including the latest phase, with students reaching out to folks in the lower Chattahoochee Valley whose descendants left the region over 150 years ago.

“We were honored and thrilled to have Madam President and her family join us. Their presence and engagement meant that students quickly realized their collaborative partnership to collect stories from those who stayed behind would have a local, regional, and international impact,” said Rees. “The word “community” in community geography just got a whole lot bigger. Our goal will be to share our findings in a digital humanities project at the CSU Archives and that everyone will find that site easily through the CSU ePress.”

Madam Serleaf served as president of Liberia between 2005 until 2017, when she finished her second term. However, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her part in the "non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work. Working with their community partner Azilia Films, students will be welcoming community members to two history harvests in Columbus and Eufaula, Alabama on the last Saturday in September.

Azilia Films is a Columbus, Georgia-based educational and documentary film company that focuses on global connections and cultures. Liberia: An American-African Legacy, which will highlight the historic and present-day connections between the Chattahoochee Valley and Africa’s first republic, is their first film project. Azilia Films sifts culture’s gray areas, studies its forgotten bookshelves, and searches the globe for compelling stories that confirm and illustrate humanity’s shared past and present in all its vast complexity and richness. Their storytelling produces thought-provoking educational films using creative minds, engaging artistic approaches, and state-of-the-art technology.