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IN Case You Were Wondering: Expelled monument

By Ann Taylor Boutwell

 On the northeast corner of the Georgia State Capitol grounds facing Capitol Avenue stands a statue called Expelled Because of Their Color. The six-foot-tall bronze piece, created by the late mixed-media artist John Thomas Riddle Jr. (1934-2002), is a memorial to 33 African-American legislators who were expelled from the Georgia General Assembly in 1868.

Who was responsible?

The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus (GLBC), organized in 1975, commissioned the commemorative sculpture in March 1976 under the Bicentennial Task Force Committee chaired by Rep. David Scott.

Why is the election of 1868 historically important?

The election of 1868 was the first time African-Americans in Georgia participated in the electoral process as voters and candidates. Despite the abolition of slavery in 1864 and passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the 14th Amendment in July 1868 guaranteeing African-Americans constitutional rights, the Georgia General Assembly hotly debated whether the Negro had the right to vote or hold office. In the summer of 1868, the Georgia Assembly was still held in the sway of whites, many of whom were bitter about the South’s defeat in the Civil War.

On Sept. 3, the House of Representatives mustered enough votes to expel the newly elected African-American legislators. Rep. Henry McNeal Turner (1834-1915), who later rose to the rank of bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, requested permission to exit the assembly before the official adjournment. When he approached the speaker’s desk, he raised his foot and symbolically brushed dust off his boot in derision and walked out the door.

Why are the 33 names important to Georgia History?

Inscribed on the base of Riddle’s sculpture are the names of the 33 pioneer legislators of the Georgia General Assembly elected and expelled in 1868 and reinstated 1870 in the Georgia General Assembly by an Act of Congress.

The 30 African-Americans serving in the Georgia House of Representatives and the counties that elected them:

Thomas M. Allen (Jasper)

Thomas P. Beard (Richmond)

Eli Barnes (Hancock)

Edwin Blecher (Wilkes)

Tunis Gulic Campbell Jr. (McIntosh)

Malcomb Claiborn (Burke)

George H. Clower (Monroe)

Abram Colby (Greene)

John T. Costin (Talbot)

Madison Davis (Clarke)

Monday Floyd (Morgan)

F.H. Fyall (Macon)

Samuel Gardner (Warren)

William A. Golden (Liberty)

William A. Guilford (Upson)

William H. Harrison (Hancock)

Ulysses L. Houston (Bryan)

Philip Joiner (Dougherty)

George Linder (Laurens)

Robert Lumpkin (Macon)

Romulus Moore (Columbia)

Peter O’Neal (Baldwin)

James Porter (Chatham)

Alfred Richardson (Clarke)

James Simms (Chatham)

Abraham Smith (Muscogee)

Alexander Stone (Jefferson)

Henry McNeil Turner (Bibb)

John Warren (Burke)

Samuel Williams (Harris)

The three African-Americans serving in the Georgia state Senate:

Aaron Alpeoria Bradley (Chatham)

Tunis G. Campbell Sr. (McIntosh)

George Wallace (Baldwin)

What was Riddle’s vision?

Riddle’s visual components dramatically express the African-American’s long, hard climb toward self-determination, beginning with huddled bodies on slave ships. Antebellum columns encircled with bones represent black labor, the foundation of Georgia’s economy. The pregnant woman looking upward is a symbol of hope for future generations. A belt around the top tier represents the “Black Belt of Georgia” from which most of the legislators were elected in 1868.

Riddle, a native of Los Angeles, was a long-time Atlanta resident who worked for the Atlanta Bureau of Cultural Affairs until his retirement in 1997. He directed the Neighborhood Arts Center and taught art in the city’s recreation centers. He died in 2002 at age 68. Riddle’s work is in the private collections of actors Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier and is also on view at the High Museum of Art and the Midtown MARTA station.