Jon Gargis, Marietta Daily Journal, June 12, 2018
Commissioner Lisa Cupid announced that a proposal to name nearly 103 acres as “Mableton’s Chattahoochee River Line Park” was being tabled immediately after a Cobb resident argued that the land — county property east of Mableton Parkway between Discovery Boulevard and the Chattahoochee River — should retain the name of Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston.
While announcing the vote will be delayed, Cupid said she was “deeply offended” by a county resident’s arguments for keeping the general’s name connected to the land.
The “additional voice” had been from Mary Stevens, an east Cobb resident who told commissioners that African-Americans had served in the Confederacy as cooks, laborers and chaplains and “in any way they could,” with historical documents showing that many had attended Confederate reunions in the years following the Civil War.
Slavery, she added, predated America, and “every race and culture throughout history” either had slaves or were slaves at one time or another.
“You see in the graph that every decade, there was an increase of free Africans in the South as opposed to the North,” she said, referencing a handout she gave commissioners. “Had it been so bad for the freed slaves, they would have left the South.”
She later added that “naming the park as anything that does not include Gen. Joseph Johnston is historically inaccurate,” citing the general’s military background and post-Civil War history.
But Cupid contended that history showed the “chattel slavery that blacks were subject to in America were not comparable to that of any other races.”
“I want to address the point that ‘had it been so bad for slaves, they would have left the South’ — I find that statement equally offensive,” Cupid said.
The site of the future park, known as “Johnston’s River Line,” is named after Johnston, who fought against Union forces in Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s Atlanta campaign. Retaining the Confederate general’s name as part of the park’s name, proponents of the change said, would have honored a figure from a group “symbolic of racial oppression for African Americans.”
Commissioners approved a master plan and $1 million in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds to develop the future park back in March but unanimously voted to delay a proposal to give it the name “Mableton Discovery Park” after hearing both support and opposition from members of the public. That name had been unanimously recommended by the county’s nine-member recreation board.
The River Line Historic Area Inc. had previously argued the “Mableton Discovery Park” label “would mask the property’s rich historical Civil War relevance and thwart tourism — a recognized economic driver for the community.” But the group, along with the Mableton Improvement Coalition, agreed to the compromise proposal, saying it would clearly identify the location of the park, diffuse tension surrounding the battlefield reference and recognize the historical effect of the River Line.