Linnentown- The Musical is coming, and with the show on the horizon, it’s important to take a look at the writer behind the musical and her thoughts, ideas, and how she brought them to life. 


Hattie Thomas Whitehead, author of Giving Voice to Linnentown grew up in the historically black neighborhood of Linnentown, here in Athens. She was also a major figure in the Linnentown Project which is a community initiative to raise awareness about the history of Linnentown and the impact of urban renewal on that community. In the 1960s, when black families in that area were displaced, there was a lot of confusion and lack of understanding about what urban renewal really was. People faced many struggles trying to move out and find affordable housing when their lives were uprooted.

Growing up in Linnentown and living this history gave Whitehead a unique perspective, when writing her story.
Hattie Whitehead, the author of Linnentown- The Musical

“The majority of the information just came forth, because I lived it, so I didn’t have to do a lot of research, or a whole lot of calling,” she said. 

Whitehead wanted to help people understand Linnenown’s impact on local history. Continuous support from family and friends, especially that of Whitehead’s daughter, was pivotal in the creation of the book and musical. 

Additionally, in sharing her story, Whitehead revealed that she uncovered a lot of emotions along the way. “I didn’t follow any kind of outline… that [writing] released some things I had in my subconscious that I had packaged away because of the hurtfulness of the whole experience.”

After some revision and re-arrangement of the content in the book, Whitehead decided to self-publish in 2021 after a year-long process of writing. 

And now Whitehead has written the musical both to bring forward the story in a new way and to fundraise for The Athens Center for Racial Justice and Black Futures, the new Black history center that will be housed in The Classic Center Arena. There were certain elements that Whitehead said could be brought out better through the format of a play, which is more visual and engaging. 

“Children are so visual nowadays, with their phones and computers… if they couldn’t get it from the book they could see it and that was another way I could do this,” she said.

Additionally, it’s significant to note that, despite the similarities between the book and musical, the musical tapped into the emotional aspects of the historical narrative. 

“In the book, I didn’t transfer the love as I wanted to. In the musical, I was able to transfer that and have scenes where people can see the love that was in the community, between families, between friends. That was important to me,” she said

Shifting the conversation to the impact of the musical today, Whitehead discussed her wish to express the true impact of urban renewal. 

“I just wanted people to see how federal legislation and urban renewal looks one way on paper, but they don’t understand how impactful it is to communities and families… Their trajectory of life can change, just like that,” she said. 

She hopes that the young people who come to watch the Linnentown musical gain a wider understanding of the importance of their vote, and the difference it makes. 

“We’re proud of the work we’ve done, and proud of our city of Athens for embracing this,” said Whitehead.

This musical is a culmination of the efforts of the descendants of Linnentown to convey its history, story, and legacy. It is a passionate tale about community, love, heartbreak, and joy. 

Linnentown - The Musical takes Athens by storm with performances April 12th, 2024 at 7:30 p.m. and April 14th, 2024 at 3:00 p.m., at The Classic Center.