Issues of Local Historical Concern

We are concerned about the handling of local historical issues and treatment of local marginalized groups. We seek to address, among others, the following areas of immediate concern:

  1. A sign placed by the Lumpkin County Historical Society (LCHS) in downtown Dahlonega makes reference to the “bittersweet echo” of the Trail of Tears. We believe, as do the local descendants of Cherokee people with whom we’ve met, that there was nothing bittersweet about the forced removal of indigenous people from their homelands or for the black slaves who were forced to work in local gold mines and on farms after the Cherokee removal. [1] [2]
  2. The “Maibaum History Tree” in Hancock Park, placed with assistance of LCHS, reflects an inaccurate series of events that seems almost intentional:
    1. It presents a story of indigenous people being removed by some distant force, then gold being discovered, and then the area being flooded with adventurous new settlers. The true history is much darker, but needs to be told. The Cherokee people already knew of gold in the area and found it mostly useless. When European settler colonialists found out about local gold, they illegally squatted on land that was already inhabited. The resulting conflict directly precipitated the removal of the Cherokee natives. [1]
    2. There is no mention of the contributions of black people and other people of color to local history. It is very likely the first non-indigenous person to discover gold in the area was of African descent and it is well known that black slaves were forced to mine for gold in the area and that slaves were sold on the courthouse steps downtown. This is an important part of local history that can not be ignored. [2]
  3. The Diving Bell exhibit adjacent to Hancock Park and corresponding signage includes the faces of several locals and experts, almost all of them white, who made significant contributions. The name of Walter Garlinghouse, a person of Cherokee descent, is noticeably missing. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution website currently contains more information about his discovery regarding the historical significance of ethe Diving Bell than does the LCHS web site. [3] [5] His name currently appears only on a sign recognizing financial contributions to the exhibit.
  4. We seek to work with LCHS and other interested parties to change or remove the sign on the SE side of the Dahlonega city square, placed by the State of Georgia, to reflect an accurate account of the Cherokee removal, the Trail of Tears, and the dark legacy of the state governors and officials who led the efforts to remove the Cherokee people from this area and whose names — Lumpkin, Forsyth, Gilmer, Winfield Scott — are still reflected throughout the area. We also seek to have some official recognition of the significance of contributions by black slaves and free black people to local history.
  5. We seek to work with LCHS and other interested parties to recognize the legacy of local civilians and soldiers who lost their lives to vigilantes during the US Civil War. Across the country, deserters and so-called draft dodgers on both sides were hunted down by state and federal authorities and vigilantes. In Lumpkin County, which served as a refuge for many men and soldiers who refused to fight a war in which they had no interest, we know of at least one incident where several deserters of Confederate armies were summarily executed by a local merchant. [4] We seek to honor the loss of their lives and the lives of other soldiers who refused to fight in a war that led to the horrific death or injury of so many of our ancestors.
  6. We seek to work with LCHS and other interested local parties to confront white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, Islamophobia, and other forms of hatred, oppression, and bigotry and recognize the contributions of indigenous people, women, black people, LGBT people, religious minorities, and workers of all sorts to the history of Lumpkin County and Dahlonega in an effort to build a stronger community that works for the benefit of everyone who lives here and where everyone feels welcome. This means not only confronting oppression and discrimination, but being proactive in reaching out to communities of color and other marginalized groups to build relationships that reflect more than just one historical perspective.

Sources:

  1. Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation, John Ehle, countless other basic history texts on the Trails of Tears and US Indian Removal Act
  2. Slavery in the American Mountain South, Wilma A. Dunway, The History of Lumpkin County for the First Hundred Years 1832-1932, Andrew W. Cain
  3. “Historic Diving Bell a colorful reminder of Dahlonega’s gold rush”, Bo Emerson, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 30, 2012
  4. Appalachia: A History, John Alexander Williams
  5. http://lumpkinhistory.org/diving-bell

3 thoughts on “Issues of Local Historical Concern

  1. Pingback: Trail of Tears Remembrance Day: The Struggle Continues | Action in Dahlonega

  2. Pingback: Confronting Dahlonega’s History: A Brief Statment on the Refusal to Confront Our Past | Jeremy K. Galloway

  3. Pingback: Confronting Dahlonega’s History: A Brief Statement About Forgetting Our Brutal Past | Action in Dahlonega

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