Civil War Marker: Collier’s Mill & Harrison’s Brigade
Playboy’s “Girls of the New South” was issued at the same time as Anonymous recalls finding her dad’s box of magazines. Other objects and mementos were borrowed from the author to construct a temporary counter memorial on site.
“I grew up in what I think was a fairly typical household. We went to church and prayed before diner and all of that, but really, we were religious to the idea of what a family should be. My siblings and I were expected to get good grades, play well in sports, and socialize with the “right” kind of people.
It didn’t help that I was different from the beginning. I don’t know. I was confused and scared and longing for something or someone to accept me… but it all came out as anger and sarcasm. I spoke with a defiance that humiliated my mother and alienated my father.
I don’t know why but, God, I hated my dad in high school. I hate the way he dressed, the cologne he doused himself with every morning before work. I hated the way he spoke to my mother and most of all I hated the way he looked at me. I could feel the disappointment and discomfort.
I know everyone says that high school is hell – especially girls.
My skin crawls when I think about the things that I felt and thought and even believed to be true about myself.
I think I was 14 when I found the Playboys my Dad stashed in the crawl space. I was down there looking for something. I can’t remember. Maybe the old bike pump or something. I don’t know.
What I found was a box of girly magazines.
I grabbed a few and snuck them up to my bedroom. I looked at those magazines every night for the next 3 years. Every night. I would get into bed and wait for the house to go quiet before turning my bedside light back on and gazing at these gorgeous women. I finally knew what I wanted. And as scary as it was, to finally start to understand what I wanted was also really freeing.
I didn’t come out to my parents until I was 24. I don’t know how surprised they were but they avoided eye contact with me for the rest of my visit. I don’t think that I had a real conversation with my mom again until I was 26 or 27.
We’re trying. I think we really are all trying to be a family. They love me and I love them. We probably do better far apart than we do together but it still feels important to go back home from time to time to see them. Every time I walk past the stairs to the crawl space I think about that box and that little girl who found it. I wonder if it’s still there. I never did return those copies.
That house holds so many memories and strange feelings for me. There’s this sort of bittersweet thing that creeps up over me, you know?
Like, it’s home. But also it’s the opposite of home.
I know that where I am now is truly home because I’ve worked hard to create that for myself and my new family.
I’m happy. Really pretty content. I do still wish that going to that house didn’t feel so much like trying. Because there’s a heritage there. Memories and emotions wrapping up that house. Like, I wish that it were just a little bit easier to walk through the door into that kitchen.
But, I still can’t really talk to my Dad. I just sit at the table with the good dishes and close my eyes and pretend to bless the food with them.
And all together we say, ‘Amen’.”
Excerpts from emails by Anonymous with the artist
Civil War Marker: Captain Henry Wirz
Three liquor bottles are “poured out” to honor the three women imprisoned at Andersonville Prison at the end of the Civil War. Each standing frame and the frame surrounding the large healed site photograph also feature cotton to honor the nearly 900 slaves forced to construct the prison camp.
Florena Budwin: Budwin disguised herself and enlisted in the Union army with her husband. The couple fought together until her husband was killed and she was captured in 1864. She was first imprisoned at Andersonville, then transferred to help relieve over-crowding. While caring for sick prisoners, Florena contracted pneumonia and a Confederate doctor discovered her gender. Despite receiving better care and a private room, Florena Budwin died on January 25, 1865, at the age of twenty. Buried at the National Cemetery at Florence, South Carolina Budwin is the first known woman to be counted as a US Prisoner of War and the first known woman buried in a US National Cemetery.
Janie Scadden Hunt: Janie Scadden Hunt was married in New York, in 1863. After the wedding, guests boarded Janie’s husband’s vessel for a short pleasure cruise. After sailing for a few hours, the ship was seized by Confederates. The guests were allowed to return home, but Janie, hoping her husband would soon also be released, remained by his side.
The newlyweds were held for a year before being sent to Andersonville. The couple tried to conceal Janie’s identity and eventual pregnancy. When Janie delivered "Little Harry" in the corner of the stockade in 1864, a Confederate doctor made a surprise visit after hearing what sounded like a child’s cry. The doctor rallied staff to sign a petition to allow Janie and the baby to board at a local farm. The mother and child remained at the farm until the end of the war when they were reunited with Captain Hunt.
Unknown Lady: The third woman imprisoned at Andersonville Prison is buried in the National Cemetery at Andersonville under a tombstone marked, "Unknown". Her sex was not discovered until after her death.
Women disguised themselves as men and joined the Civil War effort for a variety of reasons. Some enlisted to stay near their husbands; some were attracted by the paycheck; and, others longed for an opportunity to create a new identity.
It is hard to imagine how women soldiers maintained their deception or how they managed to enlist, but army recruiters, in both the North and South, did not ask for proof of identity. Women bound their breasts, padded their waists, and cut their hair.
Researchers at the National Archives have found evidence that at least 250 women dressed as men to fight in the 1860s and while most returned to their pre-war identities, there are accounts of soldiers who, after the war was over, continued to live as men.
Civil War Marker: The Degrass Battery
Reggie helped me create a memorial to his home. We used leaves and picked wildflowers to make a small bouquet to place at the site. Later, I returned to create another memorial to his mother who packed up her babies to seek out a better life and safer home for their family.
As we see a profound shift of the US African American population from the North to the South, demographers see this as a reversal of the Great Migration that occurred from 1916 - 1970. This New Migration continues as Blacks seek better opportunities for themselves and their children. Despite, the region’s Black population’s rise in both numbers and income levels, residents are more likely to live in racially segregated neighborhoods.
I met Reggie while photographing “The Degrass Battery” marker. He and his brothers were playing in the park nearby and wandered over when I set up my gear.
As Reggie and I began to talk, we found that we’re both from Chicago. He had arrived not long ago with his mom and two brothers. When his mom is at work, his grandmother likes to take the boys across town to this park because she thinks it’s safer.
This was not Reggie’s first move and he began to diagram his houses, family members, and favorite parts of the park for me on the sidewalk in Flamin’ Hot Cheetos snack pieces.
“This Flamin’ Hot is my Dad. He’s in Chicago. This one is my mom here with me. We’re going to stay here because mom says Atlanta is it.”
I asked him what he meant.
“Like, Atlanta is my home and we’re not going away again.”
Civil War Marker: Baker’s Brigade
The new memorial created for Frederick Law Olmsted is made with his plans, planting lists and notes for the park design (sourced from the Atlanta History Center) as well as cyanotypes I made on site, found objects, and donated materials from park neighbors.
Noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead first came South to illuminate “the peculiar virtues in the South,” where “Cotton is still king (although robbed of some of its dictatorship).” From 1853 to 1854 he published 65 essays for the New York Times. Olmsted’s writings are considered the most extensive description of the antebellum South by a contemporary observer.
Olmsted returned from his time in Atlanta and the South a staunch abolitionist: “I was disappointed in the condition of the people of the South, citizen and slave,” he wrote after his first trip.
Olmsted’s travels revealed close connection between the landscape and how people use, abuse, and inhabit it. The notion that identity—whether individual or regional—consisted of an interaction between place and consciousness was a new concept at the time. Olmsted understood that physical landscape shapes us as much as we shape it. This recognition of the connection between place and identity fueled his work as landscape architect.
Olmsted returned to Atlanta after the Civil War to design Springvale Park to better serve the growing neighborhood of Inman Park. When the project was complete, the Atlanta Constitution gushed, "An idyll of peace and happiness breathes in tender whispers from the cool surface of the lake, flecked with the broad leaves of white lilies and pink lotus buds."
“An arbitrary political line may divide the north part from the south part, but there is no such line in nature … the currents and countercurrents of trade, of love, of consanguinity, and fellowship, will flow north and south.”
Frederick Law Olmsted
Civil War Marker: Attack From the West
I used photographs of the eyes of school alumni to build a new memorial and frame the healed image of the Civil War site with historic marker, “Attack from the West”.
Many of the former students I spoke to still live in Atlanta and relayed the turmoil they feel when they see the site and building. This structure is one of the last examples of early 20th century school architecture left in Atlanta.
One alumnus told me “watching a childhood memory fall apart before my eyes is more than unsettling, it just seems tragic”.
Civil War Marker: Harrison’s Brigade
Year Erected: 1955
Marker Text: “The 5 regts. Of Col. Benjamin Harrison’s brigade of Ward’s div. (20th A.C.) were N. of this ridge when the Confederate attach in this sector was made. The brigade moved forward in support of Geary’s line & deployed astride Tanyard Branch – 2 regiments west of Collier’s Mill; the other 3 east of it. Scott’s assaulting line was broken by Geary’s artillery fire; the left of the brigade attempting to seize the guns while the right was diverted to the eastward of Tanyard Branch, where its threat to outflank both Harrison & Geary failed only for lack of numbers.”
"This is where my boyfriend broke my heart.
I can’t give you a picture but just know that he looked like Andre from back in the day.
And, yes, the South still got something to say."
Civil War Marker: The Hiram Embry Plantation
According to Wikipedia, the phrase soccer mom refers to a married middle-class woman who lives in the suburbs and has school age children. She is often portrayed as overburdened and driving an SUV. She is also portrayed as putting the interests of her family, and most importantly her children, ahead of her own.
This memorial is to the mothers of Channing Valley. The world is seen through the needs of their husbands and children, often at the expense of their own care.
Many women reached out to me to share their stories of Channing Valley, the neighborhood surrounding this historic Civil War site. While all of the shared memories were appreciated and helped to create a sense of how important this community is, I was must struck by a larger community culture inadvertently shared as well.
Many women shared stories of their children and their daily routine and how both are influenced by the surrounding area. Mothers have watched as children ride bikes for the first time, and husbands come home to prepared meals. Wives host large gatherings and help children manage scary dreams and first dates.
At the heart of each of these shared memories of place is a woman. Someone who tends to be known by whom she’s married to and whom she’s mother to.
I was struck with both the pride that filled these responses to landscape memory as much as with the loneliness that seemed to creep in.
Civil War Marker: Stanley’s and Wood’s Sector
The new memorial created for The Town Mice, a name given to the ladies in the first email I received from Adele Northrup, was created from snapshots, mementos, and newspaper clippings to honor the 4 young housewives who fought to save their neighborhood from being destroyed by an Interstate and, as a result, forever changed the Atlanta city government and political system.
In 1960’s Atlanta, nearly everyone with political capital wanted Interstate 485 to be built through east Atlanta. Mayors, governors, and state and federal bureaucrats all signed on in support. The only people who did not want the highway were those with very little power or voice at the time, neighborhood residents. Sitting at the center of the proposed highway was the small neighborhood of Morningside Lenox Park.
Intown neighborhoods in Atlanta at the time were facing white flight, with declining property values and negative growth. The city wrote off these neighborhoods as “decaying urban areas” and considered any new investment a waste of funds. Officials saw this as the perfect opportunity to build new toll roads between the suburbs and the city center.
In October of 1964, the Georgia Highway Department (GHD) announced the I-485 plan. Months later, the Lenox Park Garden Club formed the Morningside Lenox Park Association (MLPA) to fight the highway that would cut through their neighborhood. While the Garden Club was originally organized in 1931 to “encourage the love, study, and culture of flowers,” the women recognized the need to fight for their community. This famous “highway revolt” was headed by young housewives and mothers.
In July 1969, the GHD began condemning houses in the path of the proposed highway and by 1970, the GHD had acquired over 1,000 parcels of land and had razed 300 residences. The neighborhood began to resemble an actual battlefield.
In February 1971, Mary Davis, Virginia Taylor, Barbara Ray, Adele Northrup and others began gathering petitions to stop the highway. Later that month, petitioners organized themselves as a Political Action Committee (PAC) to raise funds to hire a lawyer. While many members of the MLPA were reluctant to continue the fight, a new activist membership convinced the group to file suit against the GHD. Then, on June 22, 1971, a judge issued a stop order against the GHD all new condemnation and razing procedures of I-485 property stopped.
Reenergized, the members organized a formal group called the Atlanta Coalition on Transportation Crisis in 1972, which consisted of groups opposed to highways planned throughout the city.
In March 1973 Governor Jimmy Carter signed Atlanta’s new City Charter into law including an “Environmental Bill of Rights” authored by Adele Northrup. And, when Maynard Jackson was elected the city’s mayor on November 6, a majority of pro-neighborhood, anti-road candidates were also elected to the new City Council. On December 18, 1973, in one of its last official actions, the old Board of Aldermen voted to approve a shift of $70 million in highway funds designated for I-485 to the coffers of MARTA.
On January 1, 1974, the city’s new charter put in place the Neighborhood Planning Unit system, creating neighborhood NPUs throughout the city. For the first time in history of the City of Atlanta, neighborhoods had an effective say in the zoning and planning actions of city government.
Civil War Marker: Stevenson’s Division
The counter memorial created for Henry Ossawa Tanner’s “The Banjo Lesson: was made by sampling the prominent colors included in the original painting located at the Hampton University Museum in Hampton, Virginia.
The “New South” was ready to showcase its achievements to the world and Atlanta’s 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition seemed the perfect opportunity. For the South to reintroduce itself successfully, it had to first convince visitors that it did not have a race problem.
Opening a month after the Exposition began; the Negro Building was the first designated space for the showcase of African American achievement in a white setting. The building served as gathering place for civil rights leaders, religious leaders, artists, and thinkers.
The most famous exhibiting artist in the Negro Building was Henry Ossawa Tanner whose 1893 painting, The Banjo Lesson, marks a turning point in African American art history.
The scene is set in a small cabin with a fire casting light on a man and boy. The boy carefully holds a banjo with concentrating on his grandfather’s instructions. The banjo was the chief cultural form with which Blacks were defined in popular imagination in the post Reconstruction era. But this image is nothing like such propaganda.
Bathed in cool tones, the old man represents the old America of slavery and the War, of oppression, racism, and poverty. The boy, caught in a warm glow, represents new America, with renewed opportunities, advancement, and education.
This image of generational torch passing was a way of debunking entrenched stereotypes of African-Americans while avoiding sentimentality.
Tanner struggled his entire career with being called a “Black” or “Negro” artist. While in Paris, he was often freed from such qualifiers. Below is an excerpt from a letter he sent an American editor from Paris expressing his displeasure with being described as a “Negro artist”.
Dear Mrs. Tietjens—
Your good note & very appreciative article to hand I have read it & it is more than I deserve, it is good. What you say is what I am trying to do and in a smaller way am doing it (I hope).
The only thing I take exception to is the inference in your last paragraph—& while I know it is the dictum in the States, it is not any more true for that reason— You say "in his personal life, Mr. T. has had many things to contend with. Ill-health, poverty, and race prejudice, always strong against a negro"—Now am I a Negro?
I believe it (the Negro blood) counts & counts to my advantage—though it has caused me at times a life of great humiliations & sorrow—unlimited "kicks" & "cuffs" but that it is the source of all my talents (if I have any) I do not believe, any more than I believe it all comes from my English ancestors.