Monday, May 29, 2017

The Johnston-Torbert House


















The B&B I spent my first week in Greensboro in is situated in one of the wonderful antebellum houses. One block off of Main Street behind the court house it was built in 1828. The architecture is called Federal style.

My host not only renovated the property but also tried to furnish it with antique furniture to go along with the overall architecture. He has done a wonderful job collecting all these nice pieces.

one of the bedrooms


















Rather than a single room I occupied a flight of rooms with a children's room adjacent to the master bedroom on the second floor.

my bedroom















 
the children's room next to mine





































Downstairs is a large dining room next to the kitchen. I particularly love the kitchen table which is a great place to hang out, eat, read, chat, fold out road maps, and discuss places to go to with fellow visitors. Though most of the week I occupied the entire building by myself.



















Thanks to my very generous host, Laird, I will be able to relocate to the next door building which was also built in the same time period.



Sunday, May 28, 2017

Greensboro, Alabama





















Greensboro was founded around 1820 and named after the Revolutionary War general Nathanael Greene. It is the county seat of Hale County in the Alabama Black Belt region. Today it is home to approximately 2500 people. The town became very prosperous in the Antebellum era, nowadays it suffers from the general economic decline in the US South.



















The town's former prosperity can still be witnessed today. Main Street consists of three parts: The central part is the shopping district with the former Opera House, the eastern and western parts display quite a few antebellum houses of various sizes mainly with nice front yards and ample green. Many of the old houses were beautifully rehabbed, others are still worked on. An information kiosk on Main Street holds a map with guided walking tours. This map features 75 buildings – about 55 of them were built in the 19th century – that can be looked at from the outside.





















































Even though the name of the town does not have anything to do with the color green and plant growth, it really s a green town.











Friday, May 26, 2017

Where it began




















In the summer of 1936 Walker Evans and James Agee traveled South to work on an article for Fortune Magazine on poor white tenant farmers during the depression years. One day they met a man named Fred Tengle (or Tingle) in front of the courthouse in Greensboro Alabama. He was about to become one of the protagonists (namely Fred Ricketts) in the book with the title Let Us Now Praise Famous Men that would come out in 1941 (as the Fortune article never got printed). It sold only few copies and was forgotten quickly. Only to be remembered later on and to become a photographic and literary classic that has been published in many editions.

James Agee (Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, 319f.) describes their first encounter like this:

"Down in front of the courthouse Walker had picked up talk with you, Fred, Fred Ricketts (it was easy enough to do, you talk so much; you are so insecure, before the eyes of any human being); and there you were, when I came out of the courthouse, the two of you sitting at the base of that pedestal wherefrom a brave stone soldier, frowning, blows the silence of a stone bugle searching into the North; and we sat and talked; or rather, you did the talking, and the loudest laughing at your own hyperboles, stripping to the roots of the lips your shattered teeth, and your vermilion gums; and watching me with fear from behind the glittering of laughter in your eyes, a fear that was saying, 'o lord god please for once, just for once, don't let this man laugh at me up his sleeve, or do me any meanness or harm' (I think you never got over this; I suppose you never will); while Walker under the smoke screen of our talking made a dozen pictures of you using the angle finder (you never caught on; I notice how much slower white people are to catch on than negroes, who understand the meaning of a camera, a weapon, a stealer of images and souls, a gun, an evil eye): and then two men came up and stood shyly, a little away; they were you, George, and you, Mr. Woods, Bud; you both stood there a little off side, shy, and taciturn, George, watching  us out of your yellow eyes, and you: Woods, quietly modeling the quid between your molars and your cheek; and this was the first we saw of you…"







Walker Evans: Frank Tengle, Hale County, Alabama, courtesy loc.gov












































Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Monuments III




















The last monument to come down was Robert E. Lee. He was situated on a tall column in Lee Circle facing North. As there are streetcars running on Lee Circle and as the column is so high, on Thursday night the city announced that Lee would be taken down in broad daylight the next day (May 19). Works started in the evening and it was expected that the event would be over at 5 p.m.




































I arrived at 3 p.m. and it looked as if it would not take long anymore. However, the statue came down at around 6 p.m. When I arrived there was a party going on. People had gathered to watch the fun, playing music from a boombox, doing double dutch, dancing. Others had brought chairs and had spent the day, the media was present. But, there were no confederate flags, no yelling, no discussions, the atmosphere was very pleasant.























It was a long wait. It was very hot. Once in a while the crowd was energized by chants such as: "Take down Robert E. Lee and all symbols of white supremacy!" Everyone was very excited.


And when it finally happened, when the statue was lifted off its pedestal, the crowd cheered and applauded.






















In the end the Robert E. Lee was carted off in a Budget truck.

And I must admit that I am very proud of my favorite US-city that it was possible to make this happen.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Monuments II

P.G.T. Beauregard was a general of the Confederate Army. His statue was situated prominently at a roundabout at the entrance of City Park with the New Orleans Museum of Art in sight. Even today he seems to have many fans that were sitting around his pedestal, guarding the statue from the iconoclasts.



























 



















Apart from the general, the horse had fans as well. They claimed, that it was not the horse's fault and that it should stay and only the rider be removed.

On the day of the removal of his statue someone posted a huge ad in the local newspaper, accusing the mayor of being a dictator and not respecting democracy. I am not sure why, because as I understand it, the city council was elected by the people of New Orleans and therefore I think that their vote respects all aspects of representative democracy. But, as a European, I may not have understood everything right. Another ad followed a couple of days later, however, it was much smaller.


































The major argument however, concerns the cause for the Civil War: It said, the war had been fought for economical reasons and not because of slavery. Well, if you considered slaves not to be human beings but an economic asset which someone tries to take away, I guess you could call the reasons economic. However, Mitch didn't listen and history took its course

I received a call from a friend at around 11 pm that the statue was about to come down. Living not far from the location I cycled there and found curious onlookers of various backgrounds. Two young men kept shouting that this wasn't right, that taxpayers' money was wasted instead of spending it for reducing crime in the city. Also, they kept arguing that Germany had kept the concentration camps and so New Orleans should keep the statues as not to erase history. I didn't want to get involved to correct this crooked argument. But, of course, there is a difference between an authentic location that is preserved as a museum and as a site of remembrance and a statue that has been erected many years after the war in order to show the former slaves and the North that they were not well received here.

Others held US flags or waved Trump flags. But there were also those who were in favor of what was happening in the distance, looking on and quietly discussing the issue at hand.

I did not really see any of the removal activities as the police line held everyone in the distance.















































I didn't stay on until the monument was taken down, but went to have a look on the next morning. It was very quiet, no protests, no flags.



















Later that day a man and his son sprayed the general's name on the pedestal and were arrested for defacing a landmark. A judge ruled that they may only be tried for defacing public property, as the empty pedestal is no longer considered a landmark. The paint was immediately removed.

Yesterday I saw that the city has put a wooden board in front of the pedestal and the bricks are no longer visible. I'll have to take a picture of that later.

On the day of P.G.T. Beauregard's removal the Louisiana House of Representatives passed a bill that provides that no military monument of any war may be removed unless a referendum is held and the voters' majority approves the removal. After the bill passed the black caucus walked out. The bill will have to go to the State Senate next.



The Monuments I

In the fall of 2015 New Orleans City Council voted to remove four statues from public land that were honoring personnel of the Confederate Army or white supremacy. This majority vote caused a lot of repercussion. Opponents of the measure argued that the statues belonged to the history of the city and removing them would mean to erase history. Other arguments included the cost of the removal, or that this was only symbolic politics not changing anything about the situation of the African American community in New Orleans, especially concerning poverty and incarceration rates.

Proponents argued that the statues were erected during the Jim Crow era to underline white supremacy and that this was no longer keeping with the times, especially in a majority African American city.

Be it as it may, the vote was upheld by the courts. In late April the Battle of Liberty Place monument was the first to come down. It commemorated an event staged by the White League against the local police force in 1874. You can read more about it in Wikipedia.

Erected in 1891, the monument had originally been placed at the end of Canal Street. In 1931 and 1974 markers were added first to underline the idea of white supremacy, later to state that this was no longer expressing the contemporary way of thinking. In 1989 the monument was moved to a less prominent location.

The monument was not there anymore when I arrived. I guess nobody who doesn't know that this once was a monument's pedestal would really pay attention.




















The second statue to come down was the one of Jefferson Davis. On my first trip to New Orleans I was really surprised to find a street named Jefferson Davis Parkway that runs through Mid City and Broadmoor. After all he had been the first and only president of the Confederacy. Why name a street after him and put up the statue of a loser?

But, of course, there were reasons for this that lead eventually to the proposition for the statue's removal.



















None of these removals went about unchallenged. Before they took place protests were staged by people waving confederate, US or Trump flags. Some of them came from out of town.

The removals were not announced beforehand and they were executed at night time as not to stir protests or even violence. The contractor's logos were blackened on the machinery in place and the workers wore masks as not to be identifiable.

But, in the end, there is love.



















The other two monuments featured two confederate generals: P.G.T. Beauregard and Robert E. Lee.