Underground Atlanta is a five-block stretch of some of Atlanta’s oldest buildings, built downtown during Reconstruction. A concrete viaduct built in the 1920s to allow a better flow of traffic elevated the street one level above these structures, completely obscuring them.
Instead of mining the potentially rich history of this rediscovered area, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, the city sanctioned creating in Underground what basically amounts to a carnival midway of shops, bars, eateries and other amusements.
Contrast this with examples of Richmond’s approach to honoring the past: programs at battlefields, historic houses, museums, archives and cemeteries as well as interpretive trails and walking tours that tell the stories of all involved — men, women and children — whether black or white, free or enslaved, Union or Confederate.
Why, then, does Atlanta often choose to trivialize such historical events, if it chooses to present these events at all? The cooperation between Atlanta’s white and black leaders averted much of the violence that occurred in other major cities during the civil rights era, when Atlanta touted itself as the city “too busy to hate.” Is it possible that as regards the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, Atlanta is the city too busy to remember?
Barbara James is an 8th grade language arts and gifted language arts teacher at Rising Starr Middle School in Peachtree City.
For the AJC’s Civil War coverage, go to: http://www.ajc.com/s/opinion/