Atlanta Civil War marker on MLK Jr. Drive

April 7, 2011 at 11:50 AM
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ATLANTA, April 7 (UPI) -- Marking the 1864 burning of Atlanta on a street bearing civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.'s name is insensitive, a civil rights group says.

"We accept that [the burning of Atlanta is] history but would like to see it [recognized] somewhere else than the heart of the civil rights historic district," said R.L. White, president of the NAACP's Atlanta branch. "It's kind of tragic that the state is choosing that location."

Georgia Historical Society President W. Todd Groce said the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive location in front of the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot was picked because it is where the burning of Atlanta started in November 1864.

The depot, near the Underground Atlanta shopping and entertainment complex, was built in 1869 to replace one destroyed by Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's troops.

Sherman ordered Northern troops to burn all railroads, factories and commercial buildings of possible use to the Confederacy. The troops left Atlanta Nov. 15 and captured the port of Savannah Dec. 21 in a campaign that became known as Sherman's "March to the Sea."

The war's hostilities began April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces attacked a U.S. military installation at Fort Sumter near Charleston, S.C.

"It seems to be honoring something that reminds us of some tragic occurrences that happened to our people at the time," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted White as saying. "The whole war itself centered around the slave issue."

Groce said: "This is about telling stories not told in the past, including the stories of the African-Americans. It was an issue about race and slavery. Some can even say that Dr King's remarkable accomplishments are part of this and related [to it]. What he had to do was finish that last chapter to African-Americans. It was the final chapter of the Civil War."

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and historical society officials are to unveil a historical marker Monday.

Of the region's 200 Civil War markers, none mentions the burning of Atlanta, Groce said.

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