by Carlisa Simon
The “Expelled Because of Their Color” monument is located near the Capitol Avenue entrance of the Georgia State Capitol. It was dedicated to the 33 original African-American Georgia legislators who were elected during the Reconstruction period.In the first election (1868) after the Civil war, blacks were allowed to vote. But even though former slaves could now vote, there was no law that allowed black representatives to hold office. So, the 33 black men who were elected to the General Assembly were expelled.
The construction of this monument was funded by the Black Caucus of the Georgia General Assembly , a group of African-American State representatives and senators who are committed to the principles and ideals of the Civil Rights movement organized in 1975. The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus commissioned the sculpture in March 1976 (Boutwell). John Riddle, the Sculptor of this monument, was also a painter and printmaker known for artwork that acknowledged the struggles of African-Americans through history.
Secretary of State Cathy Cox depicts the structure of the monument: “The first tier depicts a sailing ship full of slaves arriving in Georgia. The second tier shows black soldiers who served in the American Revolution. On the next level, antebellum columns represent southern plantation life” (Cox). This monument is more symbolic than it is direct. It not only symbolizes the 33 African-American Georgia legislators but it represents the story of slavery in Georgia. “A pregnant women”, Cox explains, “[symbolizes] future generations, and the ballot box…crowned by upraised hands holding aloft a tiara, shaped in the form of the state of Georgia” (Cox). Even though this monument could represent many stories of the history of African-American in Georgia. I am sure, without knowledge of this monument, that the average person would interpret it to focus more on the narrative of slavery rather than the story of the 33 African-American legislators listed at the foundation of the statue.
The Black Caucus and John Riddle effectively tells the story of how Georgia grew to allow African-American the right to vote and hold office. It was not a straight and easy path to get to that point but because the perseverance of many African-American leaders during the Reconstruction period, it was made possible for today. “Riddle’s visual components dramatically expressed the African-American’s long, hard climb toward self-determination” (Boutwell). Instead of resorting to something more simplistic to represent only the 33 African-American legislators who were expelled, The Black Caucus and John Riddle branched out and created a sculpture that would embrace the whole struggle of the African-American vote in Georgia.
Cox, Cathy. “Capitol Statue Honors African-American Pioneers”. http://sos.georgia.gov/misc/capitolstatue.htm
Boutwell, Ann Taylor. “In Case You Were Wondering: Expelled Monument”. http://www.atlantaintownpaper.com/features/INCaseWondering.php