Dear Decaturish – Historians call for removal of cannon in Decatur SquareThe cannon from the Indian War of 1836 that Andre Williams is walking past is one of the monuments to hate and white supremacy currently located around the historic DeKalb County courthouse that were demanded to be removed during the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights “Take It Down-No More Monuments to White Supremacy” rally on the Decatur Square June 17, 2020. Photo by Dean Hesse.
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This letter is specifically addressed to the DeKalb County Commission.
We write as an assembled group of historians who live or work in DeKalb County, study the American South and Indigenous History, or have expertise in the presentation of history to the public, to voice our support for the removal of the 1836 “Indian War” cannon from Decatur Square.
The forced removal of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation was one of the darkest chapters in the long history of white supremacy and settler colonialism that imbues every aspect of American history. In Georgia, state and local governments, often acting through militias such as the one formed in DeKalb County, willfully stripped sovereign indigenous people of rights that were guaranteed them by legally signed treaties and decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court. In violation of these rights, native peoples were forcibly dispossessed of their ancestral homelands, while the Georgia legislature seized the ground from under their feet to offer in lotteries for white Georgians. These shameful actions took place across Georgia, including on the very land on which the cannon in question now sits.
By 1836, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation had been largely displaced from Georgia. Yet in that year, the cannon that now resides at Decatur Square was dragged from Decatur to the Georgia/Alabama border for use against Muscogee people attempting to protect the last few acres of land they controlled in Alabama. Following their failed engagement with Muscogee fighters, the DeKalb Cavalry returned home with the cannon, which then became a popular marker of celebration for white locals, fired off at weddings and the Fourth of July. In 1906, the United Daughters of the Confederacy mounted the cannon onto a stone, creating the monument now sitting in front of the historic DeKalb County Courthouse.
Monuments are not simple representations of history, nor is this cannon a historic artifact devoid of meaning. This is a symbol of oppression sitting in the heart of our community, celebrating the ethnic cleansing of a sovereign people to allow white people to take control of their land. It is a piece of propaganda meant to support a version of history in which white people led the nation towards a “more civilized” future, purposely denigrating the value of those who already inhabited and cared for this land. That the United Daughters of the Confederacy were involved in such propaganda is not unusual, as they led similar campaigns across DeKalb County and elsewhere to support their white supremacist agenda.
Allowing this monument to sit in the heart of our community continues to show support for white supremacy, reveling in the harms at the very core of our history. It is not representative of the diverse community we have in DeKalb County, and should be removed.
Dr. Sara Patenaude, DeKalb County Resident
Dr. Joseph Bagley, Assistant Professor of History, GSU Perimeter College, DeKalb County Resident
Dr. Jody Noll, Lecturer of History, GSU Perimeter College, DeKalb County Resident
Alex McCready, Georgia State University, DeKalb County Resident
Dr. Megan Piorko, Science History Institute, former DeKalb County resident
Dr. Dylan Ruediger, former DeKalb County Resident
Ness A. Creighton, former DeKalb County resident
Dr. Kenja McCray, Associate Professor of History, Atlanta Metropolitan State College
Dr. Lauren McIvor Thompson, Lecturer of History, GSU Perimeter College
Dr. Suzanne Litrel
Juan P. Valenzuela, Instructor of History, Kennesaw State University
Charles Boyd, Instructor of History, GSU Perimeter College
Christopher Staaf, History Faculty, Georgia Gwinnett College
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