In 1906, a mob of 10,000 white supremacists terrorized a Black community in downtown Atlanta, killing at least 25 Black residents. The brutal event, known today as the 1906 race massacre, forced some Black residents to seek personal security in their own communities, like Auburn Avenue, which became an epicenter for Black commerce in the aftermath of the massacre.
Visual artist and activist Charmaine Minniefield doesn’t want people to neglect that history. More notably, she wants them to honor that layer of resilience.
“That’s our point — (the) 1906 race massacre happened, and most people don’t know about it,” Minniefield said.
With a public art series along Auburn Avenue, the Old Fourth Ward resident hopes to bring more awareness to the massacre and its impact on the community. The event, titled “Remembrance as Resistance: Sweet Auburn Rise,” starts on Friday and features four days of multidisciplinary art exhibits in the neighborhood. It’s an extension of Minniefield’s Praise House Project, an ongoing program that will feature art installations posed as praise houses located throughout the city. The installations uplift Atlanta’s often forgotten Black history.
The first praise house was created in 2021 at Oakland Cemetery where 800 enslaved people were buried in unmarked graves. This year, three praise houses are slated to be located at South-View Cemetery, DeKalb County at Beacon Hill and Emory University’s Atlanta campus. Minniefield said they’re planning to have the praise house at South-View Cemetery on Juneteenth. Although the project received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, Minniefield said her team is at the halfway point of their $1.5 million goal for the installations and to create programming, like this month’s public art series, around it.
“The whole project looks at the Black history of Atlanta that has been less spoken of or forgotten and erased,” said Minniefield, 50. “The way that I talk about those events is in a way that celebrates Black resistance. It’s about addressing issues of erasure and lifting Black narratives in a way that really is to incite discussion and social change around race, equity and belonging.”
Other artists whose work will be featured throughout the series include Kimberly Binns, Santiago Páramo and Cienna Minniefield. Binns is an Atlanta-based documentary filmmaker and painter whose art will be included in an exhibit on Sunday titled “HomeFront and Other Memories” at Haugabrooks Art Gallery.
Credit: Christina Matacotta
Credit: Christina Matacotta
The exhibit will feature artwork that’s shaped by archives from the Auburn Avenue Research Library. Binns, who has worked closely with Minniefield for the Praise House Project, said she hopes people attending the event understand how history ultimately shapes our future.
“We need context, and every thing that we’re experiencing in our everyday lives, even down to the minute, there is historical context for why they are happening to Black people in this country, marginalized communities in this country, how we treat our women in this country, how we treat our children,” said Binns, 49. “All of that gets lost.”
For Minniefield, the public art series is, in part, the start of what could be a dynamic movement in the city to celebrate its history.
“The praise house was where we would preserve our African identity,” she said. “It was a safe space where we would continue to do our ceremony, ritual. And that ritual was the ring shout. ... (The event) is a gathering, like praise houses before, of resources, histories and storytelling.”
“REMEMBRANCE AS RESISTANCE: SWEET AUBURN RISE”
Feb. 3: Digital media presentation - 5:30 p.m at Georgia State’s Creative Media Industries Institute, 25 Park Place NE
Feb. 4: Oral histories project - 12 p.m. at Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American History and Culture, 101 Auburn Ave. NE
Feb. 5: Kimberly Binns exhibit - 3 p.m. at Historic Haugabrooks Gallery, 364 Auburn Ave. NE
Charmaine Minniefield’s “Ring Shout Over Auburn” presentation - 5 p.m. at The Water Tower at Studioplex, 659 Auburn Ave. NE
Feb. 11: Cienna Minniefield exhibit - 6 p.m. at The Bakery Atlanta, 92 Peachtree St. SW
To donate to the Praise House Project, visit paypal.com/paypalme/praisehouseproject
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Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC