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‘This is how much I cost’: 3rd graders used in slave auction enactment on field trip to Mable House


Parents of elementary students from a nearby community are outraged after an innocent field trip for a class of third graders turned into a slave auction reenactment at the Mable House in Mableton.

One angry mother raised the flag on this ugly episode and is angry that her child was forced to participate in a slave auction reenactment as her class looked on. Other parents are also complaining and refusing to accept excuses for what occurred with their children during the Mable House visit. 

Like with any special event, 3rd-grade students from Paulding County’s Abney Elementary School were excited to go on a field trip to Cobb County’s historic Mable House. The facility is owned by Cobb County and leased by friends of the Mable House. 

This non-profit welcomes visitors year-round as they teach about the Civil War and farm life in the 19th century, including slavery. Visitors are exposed to interactive lessons about the antebellum South and Georgia during the Civil War.

During the April 11th trip, an innocent visit went south, deep south, as it reverted back to an ugly history of our state, the slave trade. Mable House storyteller reportedly asked several Black students from Abney to hold up signs with dollar amounts signifying the value of human life in the slave trade, as their fellow White classmates looked on. 

A Black mother, Gladese Cleaves, extremely upset by the lesson taught to her 3rd grader, says her daughter, along with a few of her fellow classmates, held the bill of sale placards used in the lesson and stood as if on an auction block. The students were then compared to the cost of luxury automobiles.

In an attempt to defend the indefensible, Mable House officials told Paulding school officials that what happened was not meant to suggest a ‘slave auction’ and the kids were not pretending to be slaves, even though photographs show the children up front during the presentation holding auction signs. 

In addition to this mom, other families have also lodged complaints. One White father, Larry Johnson, was also outraged as he commented on the experience and questioned why the brutality of enslavement was introduced to this third-grade class. 

Johnson said, “There’s no color, especially with kids. That’s terrible for them to go through something like that. Adults shouldn’t even go through that let alone children in third grade. It just does so much to their confidence. It’s just demoralizing to be put under a scope as if your color matters.” 

Johnson also said he was shocked to learn that the storyteller who taught the lesson that day was a Black person. 

Grandparent Donnie Smith agreed, saying, “We need to be teaching unity not separation and things like that separate us.”

Following the complaints, school officials agreed that the way the lesson was presented was not appropriate for elementary students. Paulding County School District School released a statement saying that the lesson was altered with the intention to isolate and embarrass the students based on their race. 

The district claimed that the lesson damaged the relationship between the district and the historic landmark. As a result, the district will no longer use the Mabel House as a field trip for students at any of their schools and canceled the trips previously scheduled for the remainder of the school year.

Many say the presentation by the Mable House was done in a way to glorify and sanitize slavery and point to Governor Brian Kemp. His effort, along with others, to ban the teaching of Critical Race is at the root of the problem. Efforts to protect young white children from the ugly history of their ancestors who owned slaves were done at the sacrifice of young Black children, whose ancestors were the ones who owned. 

As for Cleaves, the mother who sounded the alarm, she said she met with the school and suggests that they need sensitivity training. As for her daughter, she says, “She left there thinking that slavery was fun, that slaves had a choice, that slave owners were nice because they treated slaves like family. All of this was a false narrative because it was contradictory to what she already knew, and what she’s being taught at home.”

The Cobb County Government, which is leasing the Mable House property, stood by the storyteller, saying the storyteller is Black and has been working with the non-profit that runs the Mable House for years without any complaints. She presents her lessons in a sensitive manner. This statement from the Cobb government reflects the continued ‘tone deafness’ of Cobb Chair Lisa Cupid and the Commission on this topic as they continue to embrace this ugly history in our community, despite outcry from the public to the contrary.

A few years ago the Mableton community was poised to open a new park in a diverse area of the South Cobb community. Many who lived in the community near the new park demanded that its name be reflective of the community, while a local civil war enthusiast, along with a local community group’s leadership, insisted that it be named after a General from the civil war. 

The group then went before the Cobb Commission and claimed it had support from the community on a compromised name, which was false. The group never engaged the community as it falsely claimed that they had the support of the name they chose, and Cupid never bothered to ask. 

Their embrace of the Civil War, and Cupid’s head in the sand, won out with a homage that included a tribute to the civil war in the final name, to the chagrin of the community.

With the new city of Mableton in place, the naming of future parks in the area will fall to them instead of the Cobb Commission.


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