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‘There’s really no healing': Jefferson County residents demand slave market be removed

Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 6:57 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - As people around the country call for the removal of controversial historical monuments, many Jefferson County residents are demanding the removal of a slave market.

The Old Market House, commonly known as the Old Slave Market, is one of the few slave markets still standing in the United States. It resides in the downtown square of Louisville.

James Ivery grew up in Louisville, he remembers learning about the market as a child.

″I saw this structure. And I said, ‘Grandma, can I go over there and play?' And she said, ‘No you can’t play over there, it’s where they use to sell colored people.’ And that stuck in my mind from then on,” he said.

Ivery has been calling for the slave market to be torn down since the late 1980s.

“It almost brings tears to my eyes to know that something like that was going on with my people back then,” he said.

For him, the message the market sends to Louisville’s Black residents is one of hate and oppression.

“You will never amount to anything in Jefferson County, Georgia other than a slave. Your self-esteem will always be low, your self worth will be low, there will always be suppression and oppression in your Black community. That’s what it’s saying to me,” Ivery said.

And he started a petition for the removal of the market years ago, but only recently, it has gained major attention. It now has over 4,600 signatures. But some people still argue the market should remain because it’s a part of history.

“The streets of Jefferson County, Ga., not a classroom,” Ivery said. ”Take it, dismantle it, put it back together in a museum; that’s the proper classroom for it.”

He believes that taking the market down would start to heal the Louisville community.

“As long as you got a Band-Aid on a sore, that’s never going to heal unless you get rid of the whole sore - unless you get rid of the whole slave market, there’s really no healing,” he said.

Ivery and his group, the Civil Rights Memorial Group, will speak at the next Louisville City Council meeting to present their agenda for change. Their ultimate goal remains to have the market removed.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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