DECATUR — The bronze and granite sculpture in downtown's Water Street Plaza Park has an amazing story to tell.
It depicts African-American soldiers rising from the bondage of slavery, joining the Union army and taking part in several important Civil War battles.
"From the Cottonfield to the Battlefield," Iking Campbell, 9, said Monday, reading the plaque on the side of the sculpture. "In honor of the thousands of African-American soldiers who fought in the Civil War in defense of equal rights for all."
Unveiled in 2009 by its creator, Decatur native Preston Jackson, the sculpture served as the first stop of "The Iconic Black History Scavenger Hunt & Soul Food Celebration" on Monday.
Jarmese Sherrod, the event's organizer, said she started the event as a way to celebrate Black History Month by teaching area youth about the contributions of key figures in African-American history. Kids and volunteers pushed on despite gloomy weather conditions, many wearing ponchos donated by Boys & Girls Club of Decatur.
Sherrod created the event through S.I.M.P., Inc., a company she established in 2002 that regularly hosts programs meant to inspire young students. Sherrod is also a Richland Community College professor.
Around a dozen students, ranging from grades five to 12, were divided into teams and tasked with solving clues scattered around downtown Decatur. Each clue led to a local business and points were scored after teams uploaded a photo of the location through a smartphone app.
Information detailing the life of Nancy Green, a former slave who later signed a lifetime contract to model the Aunt Jemima pancake mix in the 1890s, awaited the teams at Del's Popcorn Shop, for example.
After the scavenger hunt, the group ate dinner at Jalyrih Grill, a local eatery at 820 N. Main St. that specializes in soul food.
“It's a good time for us to learn about our culture and what happened back in the day," said Janese Sherrod, 16, who helped her mother, Jarmese, organize the scavenger hunt.
The high school student was one of four leaders who helped guide teams of younger children around downtown. She also set up the smartphone app that kept score of each team since her mom is "not very good with technology."
In addition to the history lesson, Jarmese Sherrod said the event also was intended to get the students better acquainted with downtown businesses.
"There are so many great Decatur staples here in town, why not introduce them to some of those businesses early," Sherrod said. "They might be the next leaders that take over some of those businesses in the future."