History runs deep in Athens, and for Black History Month, Ohio University used its social media to share stories of Black history in Appalachia. 

Locations such as the Bingham House, the village of Rendville, the Payne Cemetery and the Mount Zion Baptist Church helped keep the history alive.

Through a lens, Rich-Joseph Facun, University Communications and Marketing (UCM) photographer and the lead photographer on this project, was able to capture the images and tell the story of Black history in the region.

The creative process for this involved Facun and Benjamin Siegel, UCM’s photography supervisor, two of UCM’s photographers and team members. They sat down and brainstormed what they wanted to post on social media.

After the process, they decided ultimately upon showcasing what parts of Athens which would educate its members on the Appalachian Black history that helps make Athens, Athens. 

Payne Cemetery provided via Rich-Joseph Facun.

Although many people have lived in Athens their whole life, its history often goes unknown and Facun believes social media platforms would be an influential way to help spread the word. 

“I felt like maybe that would be encouraging when people of color were looking, or considering OU, if they were to see things like that, or they were to be informed and educated about not only Athens as an academic institution but also as a community,” Facun said. “They could say ‘Hey, I'm going to go to OU for great academic opportunities for X, Y and Z,’ but also, it's refreshing to know that the community outside of Athens, and the surrounding community, seems to have a history of embracing diversity and inclusion.”

This story is an asset to the remembrance of the cultural and heritage history in Athens, and talks about Black history, which can be seen as important upon deciding if OU is a fit for college.

Due to the pandemic, finding projects has not been easy. However, this did not limit the people at UCM in developing never before seen ideas.

“We were just trying to figure out something new or different that we haven't done, especially with the constraints of COVID,” Siegel said. “Normally we would be able to photograph a lot more events and that kind of stuff –– we had to try to think a little bit differently, a little bit more creatively, about how we can still promote some of the themes of Black History Month as it relates to the university and the broader region.”

Silas Bingham House provided via Rich-Joseph Facun.

UCM tries to pick new topics throughout the school year to help spread new information to OU and all its readers. To many, these topics hold value and are a way to connect the roots of Athens to modern day.

“I think it makes it extra special for me, as a grad of the university, to be able to convey this information to our broader audiences on social media,” Eli Burris, UCM’s social media specialist, said. “With this one, it was received really well. A lot of people, just like us, say that they know they've seen these places but they haven't really known the details about them.”

Being able to educate through their work, Facun, Siegel and Burris feel like their work not only can be appreciated but they can appreciate the history through their work. UCM plans on continuing this series through different projects regarding different themes and different mediums of storytelling.