If you ever sit down with Leon Maben, vice president of the board of directors at The Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History in Augusta, Georgia, he really can tell you the history of everyone in his hometown. Responsible for giving tours at the museum, Maben has an up-close and personal relationship with Augusta’s history — one he is kind enough to share with anyone who asks. Before diving in, we want to tell you some of Maben’s story.
Leon Maben was born and raised in the same neighborhood as the museum he supports today. As a lifelong Augusta local, not only has he seen the destination’s Black history firsthand, but he has lived it. “My family's bloodline is very ‘in’ the movement,” Maben said. His older sister was part of the youth division of the NAACP, his cousin served as one of the first Black policemen in Augusta, and his uncle was the first Black salesman for a milk company in town.
When talking to Maben, his vibrance, passion, and laughter are contagious. He remembers not only peoples’ names but also their nicknames, dates, places, and events. This is why we wanted to learn about Augusta’s Black history from Maben himself and get his insight on how destination marketing organizations (DMOs) can help its partners and stakeholders tap into multicultural recognition and appreciation.
Maben laid out ways that Destination Augusta plays a role in supporting the community’s multicultural awareness. His top three recommendations for how DMOs can have an engaging relationship with partners are to be open-minded, work together for the betterment of the greater good, and be proud of your destination and its history.
Leon Maben speaking at The Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History’s annual golf tournament.
Not all of the stories of Black history and heritage in Augusta are simple, straightforward, and comfortable. Many require research, interviews, effort, time, and most importantly, open-mindedness. None of this stopped Maben, and for his most recent project, he hit a hole-in-one.
Augusta is the historic home of the Masters Tournament, one of the four major championships in professional golf, but there's so much more to the destination beyond the putting greens.
Every year, The Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History holds a golf tournament to honor what Maben calls the “untapped and untold" stories of former Black caddies of the Masters. Maben invites retired Black caddies from across the nation to attend the tournament and receive recognition for their life-long dedication to the sport of golf. The tournament has earned attention from Golf Channel, USA Today, Golf Digest, and author Ward Clayton — who even held a premiere showing of the 2019 documentary, “Loopers: The Caddie's Long Walk,” at the museum.
“I like spreading the stories because these guys don’t get recognized … it's always good to help get their story out,” said Maben.
Destination Augusta helps the museum financially with a tourism grant; the museum receives marketing funds and the opportunity to participate in co-op advertising programs with Destination Augusta. The DMO has also supplied welcome bags and VIP gifts for the annual golf tournament.
The Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History’s annual golf tournament in honor of the former Black caddies of the Masters.
The Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History is the largest African American Museum in Augusta's River Region. Opened in 1991, the museum was the former home of Miss Lucy Craft Laney. Not familiar with Miss Laney? Surprisingly, not many are.
Lucy Craft Laney was born on April 13, 1854, in Macon, Georgia. She was an educator, school founder, and civil rights activist, most known for helping to found the Augusta branch of the NAACP in Augusta in 1917 — in her very own living room, which remains part of the museum today.
The Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History is a rare and unique addition to the destination, and Maben is thankful for the DMO’s support and teamwork. “A lot of house museums like ours have closed. I tell the board all the time that they should get kudos because there are not many house museums left because of lack of finance and visitation. It just takes everyone working together,” said Maben.
Be Proud of Your Destination’s History
Martin Luther King Jr. portrait featured in a Civil Rights exhibition at The Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History.
Maben pointed out that the African American legacy in Augusta goes beyond Black caddies or Lucy Craft Laney. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also left a footprint on the heart of Georgia. His first visit to Augusta was in 1962, where he addressed hundreds at the historic Tabernacle Baptist Church. He returned in 1968 to speak at the Beulah Grove Baptist Church less than two weeks before he was assassinated.
These are the types of stories that Maben is proud of and doesn’t want to be lost. When asked for his final advice to DMOs on how they can help promote multicultural tourism in their destination, Maben said, “Dr. King always said that anyone can be great, you just have to lead.”
So ask yourself, is your destination up for the task?