Category Archives: *ABOUT THIS SITE*

The Real Danger to Confederate Memorials

Today, 18 July 2017, Confederate monuments are being vandalized at the most rapid rate in their history. I’ve woken up almost daily to read of new mischief regarding these embattled Southern icons. Anyone destroying public property should be dealt with accordingly by the courts, plain and simple. It’s all happening so fast, I can’t even keep up.  First, I want you all to know that they won’t be removed from these pages. They are safe here because they’re history. But what is not safe or welcome here are comments from those who identify with or defend White Supremacist, Neo-Nazi, White Nationalist, Ku Klux Klan, and related fringe movements.

As a Southerner, I’ve known racists my entire life, of course, but I know there are many more well-meaning people who are not of that ilk who simply revere the history of the region and their ancestors. Unfortunately, for too many years there has been a conflation of “white” history movements with Confederate history and a lukewarm attempt, at best, by heritage groups to distance themselves from it. I see the Sons of Confederate Veterans loudly denouncing racist movements on their website but also blaming other protesters. Everyone knows that when both sides come ready for war they both have some blame. But making it about that takes just enough of the spotlight away from the racists to embolden them, ensuring a perpetual nazi-Confederate connection to the outside world.

And it doesn’t help to say the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, or to dismiss it completely, as many do. Taxation and states rights were in the mix, but the entire wealth of Southern states was dependent on the ownership of human beings. And yes, most monuments were erected at the height of the Jim Crow era.  There’s no way to avoid the fact that slavery and the terror-filled lynching campaigns of the Jim Crow era were wrong and it provided an easy “in” for the fringe elements. And this isn’t a recent phenomenon. From the birth of the 20th-century Klan on Stone Mountain in 1915 until today, there has been a relationship between Confederate symbolism and racist ideologies.

Ironically, the recent “coming to light” of these pathetic elements has precipitated a hysteria that threatens the existence of these monuments more than any perceived political correctness or  political view has ever done. I hear from everyone that they’re sick of being labeled a racist for being Southern, or for defending a Confederate monument; the way I see it, to get around that you need to call these racists out, loudly, and don’t equivocate. When the world sees people surrounding a Confederate monument singing Russia is our friend or angrily waving the flags of the Third Reich, what else will they think? It’s not just that the media portrays it that way. It’s really there. Of course I like to think that if any of these lunatics showed up at a re-enactment of legitimate historical value they’d be nicely asked to leave or risk getting their asses kicked. But it has to stop being okay for these people to attach themselves to the symbolism and iconography of the Confederacy.

If communities legitimately decide to remove monuments, that, too, is their business. I personally believe it should be put to votes locally when the issue warrants it; state laws can’t prevent vandalism. And if communities choose to remove a monument, it’s their call. But there is no way to tell Georgia’s story without paralleling Confederate history. And that’s why I document not only monuments but homes, battlefields, cemeteries, and more. I’m sure it will displease people on both sides of the spectrum.

One might be surprised by the words of Robert E. Lee regarding these monuments, but I tend to agree that removing physical totems does not erase history: As regards the erection of such a monument as is contemplated, my conviction is, that however grateful it would be to the feelings of the South, the attempt … would have the effect of … continuing, if not adding to, the difficulties under which the Southern people labour. (Letter to Thomas L. Rosser, 13 December 1866, via Lee Family Digital Archive). I’m not surprised that the descendants of the most prominent Confederate families have come out against the monuments in recent days, largely, I’m sure, as a result of long-term frustration with the racists who have co-opted them for more nefarious purposes. But again, they are on this website because they are history and part of the physical landscape I document.

I’ve worked at a state historic site devoted to the end of the Confederacy. I serve on the board of  a museum based on a town founded by Union veterans. I’ve spent 10 years photographing and documenting Confederate history alongside African-American history. I haven’t done this out of a need to be politically correct yet I have received angry messages from white and black Georgians on a variety of perceived slights, almost always related to racial issues. I haven’t conceded to either before and I’m not starting now. History is history but we don’t need the help or representation of those who don’t understand, nor care for it. 

 

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Vanishing North Georgia

Crawfordville GA Taliafero County Liberty Cafe Coca Cola Sign Americana Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing North Georgia USA 2014Liberty Cafe, Crawfordville, Georgia © Brian Brown, 2014

It’s been a long time in the works but Vanishing North Georgia is finally a reality. I hope it grows into something as helpful and entertaining as Vanishing South Georgia and look forward to exploring more of Georgia with all of you.

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Five Years & Counting!

Mystic GA Irwin County Ghost Town Abandoned Car Ashley Parrish Store Dirt Stree Film Photograph Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia 2008

Mystic, Georgia © Brian Brown, 2005.

Today marks the five-year anniversary of Vanishing South Georgia!

What began as a personal project has grown into something much greater than I would have ever imagined. In traveling thousands of miles through 82 counties and hundreds of towns of varying sizes, I believe I have been privileged to see a Georgia that few people get to experience in such depth. As I branched out from Ben Hill & Irwin Counties, I did search after search for little places with interesting names I’d found on the map. I knew most would be hard to track down, but one after another seemed lost and forgotten. Part of my mission, and one that remains central to this work, was to create a permanent record  of these places for researchers and people nostalgic for a glimpse of their roots. As a historian, I was very aware of the need to document them, but what made my work take wings, so to speak, was the early support and feedback from the people I began connecting with as a result of my photographs.

Mrs. Gay's Farmhouse on Waterloo Rebecca Road Irwin County GA Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2008

Mrs. Gay’s Place on the Waterloo-Rebecca Road, © Brian Brown, 2007

And I’m not the only one out here, doing work like this. When I began posting my images to the internet I found a small but determined community of people doing the same thing as me, albeit it on a different scale and usually with far more credentials as artists. Too countless to name are all the other Georgians, whether serious or just taking snapshots for the benefit of their own memories, who record history with their cameras. As Mark McDonald of the Georgia Trust for Historic recently said in an interview with GPB regarding the scope of the work, “…in historic preservation, if you can’t save a historic building, the last step is to document it.”  Tobacco barns, country stores, and farmhouses truly are vanishing every day and with them the way of life they represented and the stories of the lives built around them. Just this week I’ve heard from several subscribers of the demolition of places I’ve photographed. And I know these are important because people are always so sad to report this kind of news. I’m glad they do, though. As long as the need exists and I’m able, I’ll be out in the country with my camera.

Revival for Body and Soul Folk Art Church Sign Westwood GA Ben Hill County Picture Image Photograph © Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia 2008Revival for Body And Soul, Westwood, © Brian Brown, 2008

My work on Vanishing South Georgia saved me, in a way. It came at a time when my own life was in flux and when I seemed to be looking for something as yet unknown. It’s renewed my love for place and for the people whose lives define all the places I visit and photograph. I hope that it brings a little happiness to everyone who sees it. That, as much as the documentary aspect, is worth it.

Dirt Road Ben Hill County GA Picture Image Photograph © Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia 2010

Seminole Road, Ben Hill County © Brian Brown, 2010

In the meantime, look for me on a road like this…

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VSG Featured on Georgia Public Radio

youngs_chapel_methodist_church_ben_hill_county_foggy_morning_georgia_public_radio_feature_gpb_picture_image_photograph_©_brian_brown_vanishing_south_georgia_usa_2013

You can hear Jeanne Bonner’s interview with me about Vanishing South Georgia here. I was very honored to be featured.

From the GPB website (visit their site for the whole story):

“I use my camera as a preservation tool,” [Brown] said, holding his camera.

And that’s an invaluable service, says Mark McDonald of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, a nonprofit that saves old buildings. Some historic structures, he says, will simply be lost.

“He’s documenting buildings that literally may not be here next week,” he said in an interview at his office in Atlanta. “So in historic preservation, if you can’t save a historic building, the last step is to document it.”

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VSG Feature on Garden & Gun

Vanishing South Georgia got some wonderful attention today on the blog of Garden & Gun, the leading magazine about the South. Chantel O’Neal did a nice write-up, which is re-posted below. I was very honored by this feature!

Focusing on the Forgotten by Chantel O'Neal Garden & Gun Magazine Photo Collection © Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

Focusing on the Forgotten

by Chantel O’Neal

Brian Brown gets lost a lot—on purpose. The self-taught photographer behind the Vanishing South Georgia and Vanishing Coastal Georgia projects has been archiving the state’s past since 2005. That was the year he moved back to his hometown of Fitzgerald and noticed all of the places that had disappeared, including the tobacco barn on his family’s farm…

To read the rest of Chantel’s post, visit:

http://gardenandgun.com/blog/focusing-forgotten

Please visit Garden & Gun if you haven’t lately. It’s a wonderful publication.

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3,000 Subscribers!

Four Donkeys Longears Ben Hill County GA Picture Image Photograph © Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2008

YOU’VE GOTTEN OUR ATTENTION!

Thanks to lots of new followers on our Facebook page and longtime fans here on the website, we’ve now reached a new milestone of over 3, 000 subscribers. This would not be possible without you and the great feedback and comments you provide. The image above was one of my first when I began the project nearly five years ago.

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A Note About Subscriptions

I’m so glad that so many people have chosen to subscribe to Vanishing South Georgia but several of you have dropped subscriptions or complained that you don’t like receiving so many posts at one time. I agree, it’s a bit too much when I post 30-40 images at a time. Nita Parry, a regular subscriber, asked me today if there was a way to manage or receive fewer emails. Here is how you do it (granted, WordPress should make it easier, but for now this is the way they do business): When you subscribe, the confirmation email you receive will have a message at the bottom that reads: Want less email? Modify your Subscription Options. Click on Subscription Options. And follow the directions from there. An easier way to do it is to simply scroll down the page after you’ve confirmed your subscription, click on the Delivery Frequency tab in the dropdown menu beside the blog name and you can check Immediately or Weekly. By checking weekly you’ll only get ONE email per week. I know this seems complicated, and WordPress really needs to improve it, but until then, this is the way to do it. If you encounter any problems during this process, contact me and I’ll try to help you through it.

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