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Historian Robert Thompson Delivers Thought-Provoking Classification Talk

Mr. Robert Thompson, one Rotary of Atlanta West End's newest members, delivered his classification talk during our online meeting on April 3. A classification derives from the practice in Rotary for all members to be classified usually by their professions – educator, business owner, homemaker, real estate, law, health care, agency executive, transportation, financial management, entertainment, plus dozens of others. Robert gave us revealing detail about a profession he has recently taken on: Historian … which is fitting because Robert’s mother was an historian. Robert began offering West End Tours, which the Beltline discovered and publicized. Immediately, his tours became very popular, and actually more than he could commit to providing as a volunteer. So he turned it into a small business. Robert’s tours are about history. He is grateful to be able to explain history as an opportunity to tell truth, which as Jesus remarked, “will set you free.” Actually, Robert believes all problems are at bottom spiritual problems. Some of us appear not ready for the freedom. He sites Christian groups who control the content of textbooks in the U.S. for all public schools. There is a group from Texas controlling almost all content for K12 textbooks who see some truth as questionable or too scary including the truth of slavery, so they literally excluded any reasonable detail of slavery from most American K12 textbooks. This resulted in most people never knowing much about slavery, only aware that it came and, apparently, it went. The power to control what is revealed as truth requires others to study the record and let the truth out. Robert referred to The Half Has Never Been Told, by Edward Baptist. Robert also referenced Douglas Blackmon, former Atlanta Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal, who earned a Pulitzer Prize for his Slavery By Another Name. Doug’s book gives detailed accounts of slavery long after it was outlawed in the U.S. Robert mentioned a person whom Blackmon revealed as one of Atlanta’s most highly regarded citizens who owned the Chattahoochee Brick whose bricks built much of Atlanta. Mr. James English, who became mayor, was owner of Chattahoochee Brick, which English used to form the basis for a bank that through many mergers eventually became Wells Fargo Bank. Mr. English was also a defacto slaveholder in the 1870s. His labor force was blacks that he forced to work in dreadful conditions, for hardly any money, and many died. English’s truth, like many other prominents, is denied by descendants. For Robert, America’s longest war is not in Afghanistan but the 400-year war against blacks. But he’s pleased that there are many truth-seekers. For examples his tours, which include many whites, are filled with people eager to know more of Atlanta’s history, not what politics tries to control as true.

Posted by Neil Shorthouse
April 3, 2020 2:00pm

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