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Sacred site to be declared at Chattahoochee Brick Co.

By David Pendered

The grounds of the Chattahoochee Brick Co. are to be designated Saturday as a sacred site in a ceremony supported by a number of local and national advocates for civil and human rights.

chattahoochee brick co. dedication sacred

The site of the Chattahoochee Brick Co., in Atlanta, is to be declared sacred ground Saturday by a group of civil and human rights advocates. Credit: ibw21.org

That the dedication is occurring on Easter weekend is a point underscored by the organizers, including the Rev. Jamal Harrison Bryant, one of the two faith leaders scheduled to officiate.

“The bones of our ancestors lie crushed into the grounds of this notorious factory,” Bryant said in a statement. “They never received a proper burial. But truth crushed to earth will rise again. On this holiest of weekends, we will gather to consecrate this ground and resurrect the memory of our ancestors so that they will never be forgotten again.”

The Chattahoochee Brick Co. used convict laborers to make bricks in the post Civil War era. Most of the workers were Black men convicted of petty crimes in Atlanta, who were leased by jailers at low costs to influential business owners. In this case, the factory was owned by a former Atlanta police chief and mayor, James English, who used hundreds of leased convict laborers to make bricks used to build some Atlanta roads and structures.

Most recently, Norfolk Southern Railway was developing the site as a future transfer facility. Construction was halted following an outpouring of criticism and Norfolk Southern announced Feb. 18 it was dropping plans to build the facility.

The grounds of the Chattahoochee Brick property is to be dedicated Saturday in memory of leased convicts who died there. Credi: Kelly Jordan

The event Saturday is convened by the Descendants of Chattahoochee Brick Co. Coalition, led by Donna Stephens. The purpose of the group, according to its Facebook page, is to: “restore and preserve the Chattachoochee Brick Company Site for its uniquely scared historical and educational value with an environmental approach.”

The National African American Reparations Commission is supporting the event through its Fund for Reparations Now! NAARC was established in 2015 as an affiliate of the Baltimore-based Institute of the Black World 21st Century, with the intent of serving a central clearinghouse for matters related to reparations including House Resolution 40. The resolution aims to establish the proposed Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans.

Derrick Boazman serves as facilitator, continuing his leadership in drawing attention to the site. Boazman hosts the “Too Much Truth” radio show weekdays on WAOK.com.

Joe Beasley supports the dedication ceremony and is calling on Atlanta companies to help fund a memorial at the site. Beasley also is working on the reparations issue and on Feb. 21 expressed his views in a guest column that appeared in SaportaReport.com.

“Every financial institution and corporation in Atlanta that directly or indirectly profited from the inhumane theft of labor from our ancestors must be held accountable,” Beasley said in a statement of convict labor in general, and in particular at Chattahoochee Brick Co. “They all have to contribute to making the grounds that are soaked with the blood of our people a fitting memorial.”

Note to readers: The dedication ceremony is begin Saturday at noon at English Park, 1340 Bolton Road. At 12:30 p.m., the assembly is to march to the Chattahoochee Brick Co. site, 3195 Brick Plant Road. The ceremony is to begin promptly at 1 p.m.

 

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David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.

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