Action News Jax Gets Real: Decoding history and race relations in Brunswick, Ga.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Delores Polite can trace her ancestry in Brunswick to at least the early 1800s.

Her family is one of the oldest in town.

For at least five generations, they worked on the Hofwyl-Broadfield plantation, harvesting rice and maintaining the land from sunrise to sunset.

Polite said her family’s history is scattered all throughout Brunswick.

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For generations, her family attended Needwood Baptist Church. It’s a church originally organized by plantation slaves and is currently a historic site in Brunswick.

Growing up, Polite didn’t have too many issues with race in her hometown, mostly because she said her ancestors had paved the way for a better life.

“My ancestors before me were trailblazers. They made it a little bit easier for me. Quietly, we knew, in my generation, we knew there was some disparity in race, but not like the stories I heard from my mother, her brothers, and my grandfather,” Polite said.

That all changed on February 23, 2020, when Ahmaud Arbery was gunned down while his family said he was out jogging in the Satilla Shores neighborhood.

Now father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William Roddie Bryan are all on trial for Arbery’s death.

“It was so heart-wrenching and so cold and calculated,” Polite said.

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Polite told Action News Jax her community had never felt that level of devastation before.

While it shook the tiny town of Brunswick, Polite said some families are still reluctant to join the fight for justice.

“That’s why you don’t find a lot of people out locally responding or supporting the Arbery family because they’re afraid of their jobs because it’s not a diverse industry around here, so people want to keep their jobs and you don’t blame them, but you got to stand for something or lose everything,” Polite said.