As a finale to our month-long Black History Month features, we here at The Chronicle wanted to do something a little different. Instead of interviewing a person and getting a biopic, we wanted to showcase an entire community of African Americans. What better way to do this than by covering The Cross Green Community. As such, The Chronicle got the opportunity to speak to one of the most prominent members of this community, Elizabeth Harrison. Harrison is a lifetime native to the Cross Green Community and actually lives three houses away from the house in which she was born. Harrison is one of eight sisters and three brothers to parents James and Pearly Green. Harrison’s great-great-grandfather is none other than Solomon Green, who is the founder of the Cross Green Community.
Back then, during this period of time, it was commonplace for landowners to employ slaves, and Green unfortunately was a slave. His owner was Augustus Cross, who allegedly gave Green and his sister, Violet Green, approximately 1,000 acres of land between the both of them. The details of this transaction are understandably murky, but it is believed that Cross did this in order to uphold Field Order 15, which was issued by Union General George Sherman. However, historical records seem to indicate that this land was eventually taken back through concentrated acts of violence with cooperation from then-president Andrew Johnson, who rescinded the field order in an attempt to appease angry slave owners and get their votes.
Harrison says her father told her that Solomon and Violet came across the land that would later become Cross Green in 1866, which is approximately one year after slavery was abolished by Abraham Lincoln with the Emancipation Proclamation. This transaction made Solomon Green the first African American in the county to purchase land. Again, that was accomplished in receiving the land from his previous owner, Augustus Cross, who owned both sectors of slaves from the Cross side, as well as the Green collective of slaves. Harrison says, “My father had his suspicions that Solomon and Violent were actually husband and wife, but Solomon lied to protect her.”
Harrison recounts the time in which she lived across from the Cross Green school systems, which were later closed and move to Summertown. She says of the community, “Cross Green at one time was blooming. You name it, we had it in our city. We were taught to love one another, and I believe that is the reason the community enjoyed such a strong period of growth.” Cross- Green was a farming-centric town, and Harrison was the daughter of a farmer, so throughout most of her childhood that was their primary means of providing for each other. She recalls a time in which they would walk house to house and give away any leftovers they had from our father’s hunting. This is just a small testament as to what Cross Green meant to not only Harrison but also everyone else who inhabited the community. A sense of togetherness and unity permeated throughout and this was in turn transformed into ideals that would be taught to the younger generation. Cross Green also had its own credit union at the time and through this union, created a motto, which was “saving together, to help each other.” This motto speaks of the inseparable bonds with the community and it was through these acts of kindness and selflessness, Cross Green developed into a safe haven for the African American community and gave them little reason to seek other pastures.
Harrison even recalls that Cross Green had a really good athletic program, most specifically in the form of basketball. She goes on to say, “We had some of the best basketball teams you could know. We were very competitive for years.” Harrison says you couldn’t do anything disruptive or unruly in Cross Green, or even fail academically, because everyone was in contact with one another. Harrison refers to this motto as “it takes a village to raise a child,” and the community of Cross-Green took this very seriously, especially on the academic front.
Between the periods 1945-1947, there would be a merging of the Green School and the Cross School, and it was that event that would afford Cross Green the very name.
The fire department was another primary element of Cross Green, alongside the churches, the school, and the credit union, which would be erected in 1990. There is also a recreation park, constructed around the same time period. Harrison recalls the softball program in the community and states, “We had the best softball teams, but we had them before the park was constructed.” She continued, “We are so proud of our park, and we even have our own walking trail. And it’s beautiful!” Cross Green would then dedicate the park to God on May 29, 2004.
Some notable people to come from the Cross Green community include Mayor B.A. Johnson, Joseph D. Greene, who was the first African American to lead the state’s board of regents for the University System of Georgia. Other notables include Amanda Roberts Brown and Doctor George Harrison, who is the son of Elizabeth Harrison, and Judge Eric Harrison, who was awarded the Thomas Masterson Intern of the Year by Duke University. Harrison says of all these people listed, “When you have all these people who opine about you and show concern for one another, you know they got to be God-fearing people and so many good things can come out of that. I don’t care where you come from or where you go. If you fear God, you can make it in this world.”
Whether it is through the church, academics, or simply lifting up one another within their community. The focus within Cross Green has always been that of love and unity for everyone residing within. A focus that is predicated on the understanding that the most important thing to protect is the younger generation. That is why everyone works together to ensure the younger generation remains focused on schooling, staying off the streets, and holding one another accountable, so that they too can pass on these ideals to the generation that comes after them. These ideals are cultivated from the humble beginnings of Cross Green and survived through the descendants of Solomon Green, who founded the community. Cross Green represents a unity of compassion for one another and lifting every person within the community, regardless of skin color, which is the very defining principle present throughout black history and the excellence of those that represent it.
Harrison finished the interview by speaking of a reunion that will be taking place within Cross Green, to which her sister Elvira Jackson gave more information pertaining to the event. Back in 1999, this annual reunion started and the intention of this reunion was to not only develop a stronger camaraderie with one another but also pass on valuable information to the younger generation. This, again, is very well engrained into the residents of this community, who pride themselves on the accomplishments of their predecessors and their future generation. It’s not until they can look back in retrospect that the then-present generation can fully appreciate their life’s work. It’s not because they don’t realize it, it’s because their focus is never on themselves, but on those around them and those that came before, and of course on God. Elvira expands on this by saying, “Don’t take good information and sit on it. Pass it on to your children and tell them to pass it on to theirs. Because we didn’t come here to stay. This way you will always remember your roots.” She continues, “What we have done to ensure that our treasures pass our treasures on, is we have founded the James and Pearly Green Foundation.” It is through this foundation where most community events take place, including that of the annual reunion, through the focus of empowering the community.
Elizabeth Harrison’s life work can best be summarized in that of a valued member of her community. She is now a retired long-time employee of Wadley Shirt Company. She went to college at Fort Valley State College but did not complete her time there. Upon returning home in 1965 she immediately found a job with Wadley Shirt Company, where she would work for 43 years. Harrison was also apart of various county boards throughout her lifetime as well, as the election board, PTA president, and various other civic organizations. Her sister, Elvira Jackson, dedicated her life to education and spent more than 50 years within that field, serving everywhere from a teacher to a leadership role.
We here at The Chronicle want to thank everyone that was apart of this month-long celebration as we have been truly honored to get your perspective on the progression of society today and where you see things evolving well into the future. We also want to thank Elizabeth Harrison and her sister, Elvira, for providing us with such a bountiful amount of information and for taking the time to conduct this interview with us here at The Chronicle. We want to wish you the best going forward, as well as wish you the utmost safety and good health. We hope that your reunion goes splendidly and perhaps in the future, we may even make an appearance in Cross Green.