New Mableton park to be named in memory of Confederate army
Meet slave ‘Whipped Peter’ and see the horrific image of his back -which is hard to look at and even harder to comprehend but so necessary for us to view if we are to every understand slavery, its impact on blacks, what they endured during this ugly period in our country’s history, and why we must never forget.
These gruesome assemblages of wounds represent the brutality of slavery. We share this picture – not to shock the community – but to wake it up. For all who may not understand the full impact of slavery or for those who wish we would stop talking about it, this image is the reason the conversation cannot cease and why it will go on.
SPOTLIGHT challenges you to think about Peter’s disfigured body and horrible scars as Cobb County prepares to hold a ribbon cutting ceremony this week for the newest park in Mableton and giving it a name that commemorates the civil war, yes, the war that was fought to keep black people enslaved.
This is the war that resulted in the scars on Peter’s body as well as the body of countless others. This is slavery, which led to death and suffering of those whose names are long since forgotten. Commemorations to the civil war and their fight to hold on to slavery has no place in our community or in our human condition. Therefore, we are bringing this important story to you.
Our country was awoken last year after the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and others who lost their lives to brutality. What followed was massive movements as leaders and communities were held accountable and forced to take a closer look at symbols of hate that were erected in the early 1900’s to honor people and events that did not deserve an honor associated with them.
Why is Cobb County determined to commemorate this ugly history while progressive cities and organizations around the country have taken immediate steps to remove Confederate symbols? These progressive leaders understand that the civil war names and symbols incite controversy because of their association with racism. Why doesn’t Cobb County understand that this impacts a large part of their constituents who are people of color? How is it possible that they are comfortable in the year 2021 with honoring this ugly history or anything associated with it that sow’s division within our diverse community?
The naming of this Marietta Park dates to 2018 and 2019, when the community attended Commission meetings to demand that money be spent to place a park in Mableton and that it reflects the diversity of the community. Over the strenuous objections of the community, the Cobb board approved a name that was decided upon “in a dark room” between preservationist and members of a so-called Mableton group which falsely claimed that they had community “buy in” for the name, when they had not spoken to community members who vehemently objected to a nod to the confederacy.
As we began spotlighting this issue in our newsletter and on Facebook a few weeks ago, many ‘uninformed’ people questioned our motives and suggested the civil war was not fought over slavery. Suggesting that they were comfortable with what was being proposed, some even asked “what’s in a name”? Our response is always the same…everything. When we operate in the dark and fail to know, understand, and appreciate our history, we are liable to fall for anything that is placed before us such as the naming of this park. The name in question, Discovery River Line Park, may seem innocent and innocuous on the surface, but it is not. It was endorsed by the preservationist groups because it serves as a “dog whistle” to their group to preserve the war.
Our writers did some homework on this civil war related name and learned that the Johnston’s River Line (also known as Johnston’s Line, Chattahoochee River Line, or The River Line) was a confederate army defensive line in Mableton and other communities near the river in early July 1864. We also learned that most, if not all, of the items built that these preservationists seek to preserve in the name of the confederacy were built with slave labor such as the Shoupades, which credits 1000 slaves working under the hot June sun to build in one week what would have taken months of labor to build. The imagery is not hard to formulate, people of color working day and night under the most dreadful of conditions to build things that would allow the people who owned them to keep them enslaved. This is what Cobb County is helping the preservationist to commemorate. What is even more concerning is that no battle was ever fought in the area in which they wish to place honor, so what they seek to preserve has no connection to anything historic in nature. This is a moment to commemorate which resides only in the minds of the preservationists who seek to name every blade of grass in our community after the civil war.
Some have referred to slavery as an open wound that must be discussed, while others suggest that we should get over it and be silent on the topic. We will never get over it and we will never say yes to leaders capitulating and naming our parks and other landmarks after the civil war in this day or at this time.
The federal government understands why we should not be honoring this history and is leading by example. They included in this year’s Defense Authorization Bill a provision, created by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, (D-Mass.), that would strip all confederate names from bases and assets that received their names during the Jim Crow era in the 1910’s and 1940’s. This bill received bipartisan support and passed both the house and senate. It was vetoed by then President Trump, but his veto would later be overturned. Included on this list of bases are familiar names such as Forts Bragg, Benning, Gordon, Beauregard, Lee, Polk, AP Hill, Pickett, Hood and Rucker, which are all slated to receive new names. One would consider each of these names innocuous as well, but a bipartisan group in Washington saw it for the “dog whistle” that it is and are making the needed corrections to remove this homage to the civil war. Said Warren on the Senate floor, “The Confederate soldiers who betrayed the United States to fight for the Confederacy were fighting for the institution of slavery. It is time to put the names of those leaders who fought and killed U.S. soldiers in defense of a perverted version of America where they belong, as footnotes in our history books, not plastered on our nation’s most significant military installations.”
Constructive reasoning also from a member of the community was reflected in a comment to the editor of a different publication, “We must name objects and places to celebrate individuals who made the world a better place, not to remind us of infamous deeds.”
For astute people in our community, we recognize that it is an under discussed conversation that is long overdue in Cobb County and one we must have it if we are to move forward in a positive manner. We must remove ourselves from the “vicious cycle” of dealing with the same issues with no real or meaningful solutions in sight. We must demand that lawmakers find their backbone and address the 500-ton elephant in the room. This is made even more apparent in the recent signing of a voter suppression law under a painting of a slave plantation by Governor Brian Kemp. As another writer recently put it, “Sometimes America’s legacy of white supremacy is hiding in plain sight” as it dares us to speak out against it. As for those who gather at the state capitol to denounce the signing of the new voting restriction bill, who will speak up for “Whipped Peter” and against the civil war park in Mableton?
First things first, this park needs to be named after something that commemorates diversity and unity in our community, which the proposed name does not. Further, if the land is to be named for those who came before us, the honorable thing would be to give it the name of the original owners of this land, the American Indians, which the SPOTLIGHT Publisher requested when she went before the Cobb Board years ago. Nothing less should be acceptable to a diverse and progressive community in 2021.
We have shared with you info on slave Peter and his wounds and made the case why this ribbon cutting to name a Mableton Park after the civil war should not occur and why this cannot be business as usual in South Cobb. Now is the time for you to tell your Cobb Chair and Board of Commissioners to correct this major mistake as it only serves to set our community back hundreds of years instead of moving us forward.
Keep the conversation going on our Facebook page.