Brewer Elementary unveils commemorative wall honoring slain civil rights leader Dr. Thomas H. Brewer

After becoming principal of Brewer Elementary School last summer, Cenobia Moore was dismayed to find the students deficient in knowledge about their school's namesake.

Dr. Thomas H. Brewer was a leader for racial equality in Columbus from the 1920s until his assassination Feb. 18, 1956.

Moore conceived a commemorative wall to honor Brewer and teach his life's lessons to the students. She shared her idea with cafeteria manger Kenneth Duncan, who is a Mason at Mt. Pisgah Lodge. The lodge members got behind the idea, and it grew to include Columbus Black History Museum and Archives founder Johnnie Warner and Evergreen Memorial Park owner Renny Mizell.

Tuesday, that idea came to fruition as Duncan, Mizell and lead custodian Robert Sanders unveiled the wall in the school's foyer.

"This wall truly is a dream come true," Moore told the crowd. " Current students and many students to come will be able to stand before this wall and allow the memory of Dr. Brewer to come alive in their lives."

John Phillips, the Muscogee County School District's interim superintendent, challenged the assembled students to "learn about this man's life and model what you've learned from Dr. Brewer."

The wall includes a plaque listing those who contributed to the project. Lauren Wertz, one of Moore's former students at Jordan High School, created the charcoal drawing of Brewer. Donna Riles added her design expertise.

"This community truly came together," Moore said. She estimated the project cost nearly $10,000 in financial and in-kind donations, plus some money from the school's activity fund.

A mirror surrounds the portrait of Brewer.

"Let us all remember to reflect on the past to shape the changes of the future," Moore said. "That's why we have the mirror. As the students look into that mirror and see Dr. Brewer, they also can see themselves."

A monument in front of the wall contains a time capsule the students, faculty and staff will fill with items representing their era. The capsule is scheduled to be opened in 25 years.

A chronology and article about the civil rights leader's life, a plaque showing Brewer's memorial at Evergreen and a listing of the school's principals also are on the wall. Brewer is buried at Green Acres Cemetery.

Before the ceremony, Warner put Brewer in historical perspective.

"Dr. Brewer is the Columbus Martin Luther King Jr.," Warner said. "He was a martyr. He was assassinated because of his love for mankind. He wanted equal opportunity and equal rights."

Warner also explained why that history is important.

"History is the basis for wisdom, and wisdom is the opportunity to live a long and healthy life by making the right choices," he said. "Hopefully, this will instill the value of our citizenship to our children by showing that people fought, people struggled, people died for your privilege to be a citizen of the United States."

Three fifth-graders were presented gift cards for placing in the school's Black History Month essay contest: 1. Quanasia Brooks ($100); 2. Tywan Washington ($75); 3. Oscar Samayoa ($50).

Quanasia called the wall "amazing."

"It's like a lump in my heart to see it," she said.

Quanasia said the wall commemorating Brewer "will keep people knowing that he is important."