Monday, April 11, 2011
Civil War marker may be moved off MLK Drive
By Megan Matteucci
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Concerns by the NAACP may cause the Georgia Historical Society to move a Civil War marker off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive – despite it being cemented in the ground.
On Monday, the Historical Society unveiled a new marker to commemorate the burning and destruction of Atlanta as part of the state’s 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The marker was installed in front of the Georgia Freight Railroad Depot on MLK Drive.
Last week, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the Atlanta chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People felt the location of the marker – the heart of the city’s civil rights district – was not appropriate.
On Monday, Society President W. Todd Groce said he reached out to the NAACP after reading the AJC’s story and is considering moving the marker.
“There is some disagreement and we’re trying to figure out what is the right spot,” Groce said. “But historians said this is the place where the burning began. For right now, it’s here. It’s in poured concrete, but we’re open to discussion about it.”
R.L. White, president of the NAACP’s Atlanta branch, said he doesn’t mind the marker being installed, but would want it placed in another location.
“It’s not wise," White told the AJC. "It’s in your face to be on MLK, who is associated with liberation and freedom.”
Former state Labor Commissioner Michael L. Thurmond, who serves on the Historical Society’s board, also announced he is organizing a symposium in the next six months to educate the community about the role African Americans played in the Civil War, including 200,000 blacks who fought for their freedom.
“There is a tremendous amount of misinformation out there,” said Thurmond, who published “Freedom: Georgia’s Antislavery Heritage.” “I said to them [NAACP] that I understand your concerns. There has been concern for centuries because we’ve only had one narrow view in our classrooms and communities on the Civil War. ... But the marker is not etched in stone. It doesn’t have to be here.”
Groce said the location was chosen based on historical accuracy and “no one thought about the actual street address” when MLK was chosen.
“There is no marker to tell about the burning of Atlanta, which marked the end of the war,” Groce said. “We are standing on Ground Zero. This is where the burning and destruction started.”
Janice Sikes, a librarian at the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, said she doesn’t think the marker should be moved, but she hopes that it will spawn more education and conversation about the war.
Georgia has allocated $380,565 this year for activities commemorating the war’s sesquicentennial. About $80,000 of that will go to the Georgia Historical Society to install 13 new historical markers and replace seven damages ones. The new markers highlight historical events that included African Americans, women and the home front, topics previously neglected, Groce said.