African, Jewish, Spanish, Portuguese and Armenian villages were erased from the Southern Appalachian landscape
However, one African-American lady bit off a little more than she could chew
Rightfully so, Chickasaws, Creeks and Uchees complain that during the 20th century, US Department of Interior mapmakers and Anglo-American academicians erased our existence from vast areas of the Southeast . . . in particular the Southern Highlands. I will never forget the “oh he’s crazy” smiles on the faces of Western North Carolinians in 2010, when I told them that Chiaha, Tuskegee, Oconaluftee, Talulah, Tennessee and Tucksegee were Creek words. Well, Chiaha was originally an Itza Maya word, but we will discuss it in a forthcoming article.
However, we are not the Lone Rangers in this matter. At least, we, the descendants of these Chickasaw, Creek and Uchee villagers are recognized as having ancestors, who existed somewhere. History textbooks never mention the Jewish, African, Spanish, Portuguese and Armenian colonists. It is as if they never existed . . . even though Colonial Period maps and eyewitness accounts place them in the Southern Highlands. Armenians? Yes, either Armenians or Christian Anatolians were described in 1673 by James Needham and Gabriel Arthur as living in a large town built of brick near the confluence of the French Broad and Holston Rivers in Northeast Tennessee. Nearby was a town built of wood, occupied by Africans. They did not say whether they were North Africans or Sub-Saharan Africans.
Sundown towns and erased African villages
One of the most interesting days that I spent during my six years near Dahlonega was when sociologist and best-selling author, James William Loewen and his wife, journeyed down to Georgia from Washington, DC on an Amtrak train to come visit with me. Loewen is the author of at least 11 books, including, The Truth About Columbus (1989), Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your High School History Textbook Got Wrong (1995) and The Sundown Towns (2005). While visiting with me, he was particularly interested in my knowledge of the Sundown Towns. I had none, because MY high school textbooks had done such a thorough job of fabricating the past. Sundown towns were and are those communities that chased out their African-American residents and then would not let any African-American visitors stay there after sundown.
Since that day, I have been more determined to find evidence of Africans once living in Appalachian valleys and indeed, have found it . . . almost everywhere in the region. Needham’s and Arthur’s account was just the tip of the iceberg. Even as late as the American Revolution, there were African villages in Western North Carolina. There was a brief account that several “Negroes” were murdered by Patriot troops when they invaded western North Carolina, even though they were not hostiles.
There is a classic example of African-Americans being erased from the history books in Gilmer County, GA, whose county seat is Ellijay. Drive along the Appalachian Freeway near Ellijay and you will see several signs announcing the location of the great Cherokee town of Turniptown and the birthplace in 1760 of its great chief, Whitepath. You are told that Whitepath helped John Ross with the wagon train for the Trail of Tears and died along the way in Hopkinsville, KY in 1838.
Both National Park Service research and several genealogies published by Ancestry.com tell a very different story. Turniptown was one of several “Negro” villages in what is now Gilmore County. The cabin was built in 1800 by a 40 year old white Quaker, Armajor White ( with a little bit of unknown Native ancestry) and his wife, Absilla Knight. White and his wife appear to have been Quaker missionaries.Their children soon moved away to several parts of the Southeast. He could not possibly have been born in this cabin and apparently was mixed up by historians or Cherokee-philes in the late 20th century with the real Chief White Path, who ended up in northeastern Alabama.
This couple and all their children were always listed on the US Census as white. None of them went on the Trail of Tears. Amajor White died four years AFTER the Trail of Tears while living with one of his children in Hopkinsville. There is no information on the fate of the African residents of Turniptown. They are not listed as being rounded up by federal troops for the Trail of Tears. Perhaps they also moved to Kentucky OR did they stay in the Georgia Mountains? We may never know.
I have recently learned that near where I live was a very old African community, which dated back at least to the Georgia Gold Rush days in the 1830s. “Colored” (mixed African-Native American) freemen laborers worked at the commercial gold mines and later on the large farms in the especially fertile part of the Nacoochee Valley or logging companies. The community had a “Colored Only” school until the 1950s, when the Supreme Court ordered Georgia to desegregate its schools. It also had a General Store-Post Office on Amy’s Creek and a church. After the colored residents of the community were “persuaded” to move elsewhere, their residential, religious and commercial buildings were demolished.
Prejudice can get one in a tizzy
Shortly after moving here, the Habersham Historical Society sponsored a program on the “Black History” of the county at Daes Memorial Methodist Church on the Soque River near Downtown Clarkesville, GA. It was an interesting program that filled in a lot of gaps left out of the history books. I knew my phone had been tapped by someone in the county government. Two hours after the phone was turned on, when I had no furniture in the house, the inspector for business licenses called me up and told me that I would be arrested if I didn’t immediately get a business license for my architecture practice. I told him that this was a residence. I hadn’t even moved into the house, I had not practiced architecture anywhere since early 2009 and that there had been no work for me in Georgia since the Republicans took control of everything in 2006. He responded by saying that he would be watching me.
This marked the 22nd year of Georgia “Law Enforcement” illegally tapping my phone. The first time that BellSouth Security caught an illegal police wiretap on my phone was in Cartersville in 1996, when I was on the county planning commission and the city Board of Zoning Appeals. Since 2000, the “law enforcement” officers obtain warrants for surveillance based on bogus criminal investigations. Most of the early taps were to obtain insider information to sell to general contractors about the bid on my projects. More recently the taps were done to show their support for the Party. I assumed that there would be no one at the Historic Society meeting, who would be involved in such nonsense.
Google Maps placed the church at a veterinary hospital a mile away, so I was one of the last persons to arrive and had to sit in the back. Almost immediately, an attractive black lady plopped down beside me, held my hand and then squeezed her thigh against our hands and my thigh. I told her, “I’m gonna like living here. Even the historical society fixes you up with hot dates. Gosh, your hand’s so soft and warm.” She looked very confused and then bragged that she had a college degree . . . in a tone of voice that inferred that I didn’t.
When I started greeting the other black folks in front of me, she pulled her hand away and eventually stood up to walk away. A little later, she was handing out the lyrics to the song, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” It is considered the Black National Anthem, but I wasn’t sure I knew the song at first. I told her that. She snarled back, “Either you know it or you don’t know it. You wouldn’t know this song.”
Periodically, during breaks, she would stop by to make sarcastic remarks to me, like black women would say to bigoted white men to intimidate them. Then a female and a male law enforcement officer sat down beside me. They looked like FBI, who have a bit more polish to them than the GBI. They were there to see if I was committing any crimes, but were clueless to the fact that a Russian on our row (yes Russian) was taking photos of the key Black speakers with her smart phone then sending them to a telephone number in the Roswell-Alpharetta, GA area. Good ole FBI. Fortunately, the Creek side of my family has been used as scouts and spotters since the French and Indian War. The high falluting cops left after awhile.
I finally figured out what was going on. The Gestapo told her that I was an uneducated redneck, infiltrating their meeting. Many white southerners are terrified at the thought of touching an African American or American Indian. There are is a legion of bad apples in the federal barrel, who have the maturity of pre-adolescents and who are too incompetent to do anything, but commit political crimes against honest citizens
This has been going on for 21 years. When I bought a house near Downtown Cartersville 1997, my elderly neighbors were telephoned to be told that I was a peeping tom. Those on the street, who were neo-Nazi’s, were told that I was an FBI agent. Families with children were told that I was a gay sexual predator of young boys, even though my girlfriend spent every weekend with me. As a result, nearby Tabernacle Baptist mounted a campaign to have me driven out of the neighborhood. A deacon from Tabernacle, who looked like Porky the Pig wearing a straw hat, followed me around town . . . telling people that he was an FBI agent following me. He ultimately made the mistake of telling a real undercover FBI agent that little lie.
I recognized “Lift Every Voice and Sing” after I heard the first few notes and sung it heartily. Afterward the black lady came up to me and demanded to know how I knew “Lift Up and Sing.” I told her that we used to sing it at the Wesley Foundation (Methodist Campus Church) at Georgia Tech. One of our ministers told us a lot about the inner workings of the Civil Rights Movement and the many horrors they experienced, which were rarely described by the news media.
She laughed and blurted, “White preachers don’t know shit of how we have suffered. Give me a break.”
I responded, “Well Andy sure did. Most people don’t know that Andy was an ordained minister long before he was a politician. He stayed with the Wesley Foundation until he decided to run for Congress. Then he went on to be Ambassador to the UN and then Mayor of Atlanta.”
Her eyes grew as wide as a jumbo size egg in Walmart. She asked, “Andy Young was your minister?”
“Yep . . . I always thought that he was a really decent, honest person.”
The lady quickly rode off into the sunset and was never heard from again.
Moral – Never believe what some stranger tells you about somebody else.
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