Yesterday’s AJC featured an article on the slavery mural that’s prominently featured at the Georgia Department of Agriculture.
The mural is part of a visual timeline that commemorates the history of agriculture in Georgia. Many have questioned the appropriateness of this particular image, completed in 1956.
The article is well-worth your time, but I’ll go ahead and give you the central question — if the history is painful, should it be treated differently than the history that’s not as painful?
My answer is: of course, dummies!* This argument is all about context. If you’re going to, say, the new Illinois Holocaust Museum or the pending Center for Civil and Human Rights Museum, you know what you’re getting into.
If you’re looking to talk to someone about peanuts (or whatever a visitor might do at the Department of Agriculture), an image of slavery might (understandably) be jarring.
This problem would be easily solved with a respectful, permanent, and visible explanation on display nearby instead of a photocopied handout.
In a parallel vein, if our museum didn’t explain anything about the phrase “tar baby,” folks might also infer that the term “reinforces an image of blacks’ subservience to white people.” But when our storytellers explain that the tar baby stories descend from the African “sticky hair” stories via enslaved Africans, it presents a totally different perspective.
* I am, of course, referring to the royal “dummies.”