By BOTWC Staff
A group of former residents and descendants of an Athens, Georgia neighborhood are calling on the city to apologize and create a memorial for the destroyed town, AP News reports.
More than five decades ago, residents of a Black neighborhood in Athens, Georgia were displaced when their town was destroyed. City officials in Athens used eminent domain to force Black families out of Linnentown, a neighborhood in north Georgia, as part of an urban renewal plan. The land was subsequently sold to the state Board of Regents and used to build dorms and parking lots for the University of Georgia.
Now a group of former residents and descendants, known as the Linnentown Project Group, are calling for atonement. They are asking the university to apologize for the land seizure and erect a memorial in honor of Linnentown. Bobby Crook, a member of the group said the university also needs to compensate those it wronged.
“It is heartbreaking because a whole community that nurtured, loved, and supported you was erased,” Hattie Thomas Whitehead, president and community outreach coordinator for the Linnentown Project, said.
Whitehead’s father was a resident of Linnentown, who built his home from the ground up there with the help of the community. When the family was forced out, they couldn’t afford to purchase a new home and had to move into public housing in 1963. The purchase of the town was supported by a federal grant. The average award for homes in the neighborhood, according to a resolution approved by Athens-Clarke County commissioners in February, was about $5,750. The land, about 20 acres, is valued at tens of millions of dollars today.
The county resolution accused the city and the University System of Georgia of “an act of institutionalized white racism and terrorism resulting in intergenerational Black poverty, dissolution of family units, and trauma through the forcible removal and displacement of Black families, and the accumulation of the majority of their wealth and political power within the University System of Georgia and the City of Athens.”
University of Georgia spokesman Greg Trevor said the university is interested in making amends and wants to preserve Linnentown’s pas. Trevor has decided to include the history of the neighborhood in the Athens Oral History Archives, which is maintained by the University of Georgia Libraries. Linnentown is just one of many Black neighborhoods around the country that were destroyed under the eminent domain clause. Athens-Clarke Mayor Kelly Girtz has since apologized for Linnentown’s destruction. Whitehead said she was taken by surprise at the apology and cried hearing it.
“I certainly do think this is a form of reparations,” said Whitehead.
According to The Intercept, Mayor Girtz has plans to hire an economist to assist community members with deciding how much money Linnentown descendants might be owed. While there is a long road ahead for complete redress, both Whitehead and Crook are hopeful.