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‘You are my slave,’ White student tells Black student

School encourages parents to ‘be creative’ in dressing for Civil War Day

JEFF MARTIN | 10/23/2017, 7:38 a.m.
A new battle line has formed in the national debate over Civil War flags and symbols – this time at ...
Corrie Davis, left, picks up her son Turner from Big Shanty Elementary School in Kennesaw, Georgia, Oct. 11. In the midst of the national debate over Civil War flags and symbols, the school invited fifth-graders to dress up as characters from the Civil War last month. Davis says a White student dressed as a plantation owner approached her son and said, "You are my slave." Davis says she wants Cobb County school officials to understand the pain that caused her son and wants the school to stop the annual Civil War dress-up day. David Goldman

KENNESAW, Ga. (AP) – A new battle line has formed in the national debate over Civil War flags and symbols – this time at a Georgia school not far from a mountaintop where Confederate soldiers fired their cannons at Union troops more than a century ago.

The school near Kennesaw Mountain last month invited fifth-graders to dress up as characters from the Civil War.

Corrie Davis, the mother of a 10-year-old Black student stated that a White classmate dressed as a plantation owner told her son, “You are my slave.” Her son did not dress up that day.

“What I want them to understand is the pain it caused my son,” Davis said. “This is bringing them back to a time when people were murdered, when people died, when people owned people.”

Davis recorded an emotional video in which she explains how she was affected by what happened to her son. It has attracted about 70,000 views on Facebook. The distraught mother said she met with school officials, but was dismayed when they refused to promise that they would never conduct a class in that way again. The issue could come to a head in a couple of weeks, when Davis plans to bring it up at a regularly scheduled school board meeting.

“No student was required to dress in period attire and any student that did so was not instructed, nor required, to dress in any specific attire,” school system spokesman John Stafford said in a brief statement.

However, the note sent home to parents before the event said: “… it creates a more realistic simulation when dressing in Civil War clothing.”

Its suggestions included overalls – which Davis believes could have been meant to represent the clothing worn by slaves – and dark pants and white button-down shirts. White button-down shirts have become synonymous with demonstrators protesting the removal of Confederate statues in recent months. They were worn, for example, by some of the White nationalists who staged a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that led to violent clashes in August.

Cobb County school officials haven’t said whether the annual Civil War Day will continue next year at Big Shanty Intermediate School.

Communities around the country have removed Confederate monuments under pressure from those who say they honor a regime that enslaved African Americans. The debate over such symbols intensified after a self-proclaimed White supremacist who had posed in a photo with the Confederate battle flag fatally shot nine Black parishioners in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. And it has shown little signs of waning since the Charlottesville clashes that left one woman dead.

“BE CREATIVE and use your resources to ensure that your costume is as accurate as possible,” the Georgia school’s note informed parents. It included a small picture of a man in Civil War dress with what appears to be one of several flags used by the Confederate States of America.

“If they’re requiring that the costume be as accurate as possible ... some kid is going to come to school dressed as a plantation owner,” Davis said in her video. “My son is going to be looked upon as a slave at the school.”