LOUISVILLE, Ga. (WJBF) – A structure in Jefferson County once used to sell slaves has some people wanting it to come down. This comes amid nation-wide racial unrest.
When you hear the sound of chimes in downtown Louisville, you know exactly what it is.
The bell sits inside the Market House on Broad Street. And despite a few renovations, the historic structure has been where it is for 226 years.
“This was actually hunting grounds,” said Jefferson County Historical Society’s Lorna Booth adding that Native American tribes Creek and Euchee once inhabited the area. “There were not that many people living here. But they would gather in this area.”
Booth said Native Americans started in the area and once Louisville became a city, people created the Market House where the bell would signal the need to fight fires or corral people to hear a speech. But when Georgia legally sold slaves in the late 1700s, many were auctioned off right under the timber in the center of town.
“Records that we have found with the Historical Society say that there were slaves sold here,” she said adding that there were not many records indicating such, but one was too many.
“She was sold right here,” said Archie C. Dukes, of Swainsboro. He remembers his great grandmother telling him of the horrors of her slave sale at the Market House.
“She was born in 1843 and in 1855 she was sold right there at 12-years-old,” said Dukes who told us his great grandmother Ann Gunn also had evidence of being whipped on her back.
Dukes would like to see the place some refer to as Lousiville’s slave house gone and he recently brought his great nephew, NBA player Dwight Howard, to share their family’s story.
“How would you feel if your family walk away from you and you never see them again? Your brothers, sisters, mother, father,” he told us.
And he’s not alone. Nikki Tarver and Myles Jackson both made calls on social media for the Market House in Louisville to come down. Their demands even led to a protest a few weeks ago.
“When I was in third grade I was told by a teacher that it was a fruit stand when I know that it was slaves sold there,” Jackson said.
He believes that removing the Market House will boost the economy along with improving what he calls modern day segregation see in places such as the school system and towns. He said he lives in Bartow and the railroad tracks are the invisible racial dividing line.
“More businesses would come to the downtown area,” he added. “I know several black business owners that refuse to bring their business to the downtown area and it’s hurting our economy and it’s simply because this is in the middle.”
“You have a lot of emotions on both sides,” said Louisville City Administrator Ricky Sapp. “The impact to the physical look of downtown would certainly be an issue. So, what do you put back in this place?”
Michelle Reaves, who sits on the Louisville City Council, said she wants it down and does not see why the five member council will not agree.
She told us, “I listen to my community and my community has said they want it down.”
The City Administrator said the advisory committee will meet July 22 and later make a recommendation to the council.
Booth told us she would hate to see the structure gone since it is part of history, which cannot be changed.