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New Communities group in Albany opens Resora Plantation

Albany community group based on Israeli kibbutz opens antebellum Resora Plantation

The crowd at Resora Plantation’s open house gathered before an enormous live oak

The crowd at Resora Plantation’s open house gathered before an enormous live oak

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Geraldine Hudley performed as “Futura,” a slave on the plantation in the mid 1950s. (Staff Photo: Jim West)

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Shirley Sherrod is a founding member of New Communities Inc. (Staff Photo: Jim West)

ALBANY — Great numbers of people gathered in the shade of an ancient and enormous live oak Saturday to hear authentic African drumming, to be educated on African art, and to experience a one-woman skit based up the life of a fictitious slave living on a plantation near Albany.

All were in attendance at the open house at Resora Plantation, formerly known as Cypress Pond Plantation in southwest Dougherty County. The nearly 1,700 acres of the Resora community and the beautifully restored antebellum home is owned by New Communities Inc., established in 1968 by Charles and Shirley Sherrod and others to amass land holdings and create a community based on the concept of the Israeli “kibbutz,” or agriculture collective.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., “A Taste of Resora,” was planned, which would include foods from a number of area restaurants.

Beneath the limbs of the oak, which some have estimated to be more than 300 years old, Geraldine Hudley performed a short skit written by retired drama speech professor Curtis Williams. Hudley portrayed a slave on Cypress Pond Plantation during the mid 1850s, name Futura, because she could had “visions,” and she taught herself to read and write,” Williams said.

At the end of the skit, Furtura’s hymn, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” morphed into the widely-known civil rights tune “We Shall Overcome.”

Following Hudley’s skit, representatives of the lower Creek Indian nation addressed those in attendance and performed a formal blessing of the land.

“We want this to be a place where everyone can feel there’s something for them,” said Shirley Sherrod. “A place where they can connect. Today we have Africans and blacks, as well as white people, native Americans and Hispanics. We hope the Asians will be arriving in a little while. We’re trying to involve all the ethnic groups of the area.”

Sherrod said the plantation is already a working collective farm with cabins and growing areas, as well as a museum, and “pick your own” agricultural products in the future. According to Sherrod, the plantation, including the centerpiece home, was first owned by one of the largest slave owners and richest men in Georgia, General Hartwell Hill Tarver.

“We have a copy of an ad selling slaves from this place on the courthouse steps in Albany, Dec. 29, 1859,” Sherrod said, “and we believe Jefferson Davis actually stayed here overnight when he was running from the Union Army.”

The plantation was purchased in 2011 for $5 million, Sherrod said, and work began on the property the next year. Funding was the project was provided in large part by the historic “Pigford case” legal settlement in 2009, where Charles and Shirley Sherrod’s part of the award amounted to more than $12 million. The balance of the $1 billion settlement amount went to black farmers in that class-action discrimination suit against then U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman.

“Even through all the struggles, all that we went through to get to this point, it seems surreal,” Sherrod told The Herald last week, ” There were times when we wondered if a day like this would ever come.”