All images come from an About South fieldtrip to the park on Thursday, September 11, 2014. All of the paired text comes from Theda Perdue’s Race and the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition.

Piedmont Park: A Photo Essay

Annamaria Iacovacci
“The Cotton States and International Exposition closed on December 31, 1895. The building, intended to be temporary, gradually fell into disrepair and were demolished. […] The park […] became a public green space, but its facilities were rigidly segregated for the next sixty years. Today, few physical traces of the Cotton States Exposition remain. Clara Meer, the lake at the center of the exposition, is there, as is the Grand Plaza, an oval that now sports an athletic field and track instead of the formal gardens of the exposition. The rustic stone steps that lead from one level to another, and the planters that adorn the landings, are left from the exposition. The railroad right-of-way that conveyed fairgoers to Atlanta in the 1890s is still at the edge of the park, but it is eerily silent. Similarly, few explicit reminders of the racial segregation that the exposition helped entrench survive. Visitors to the park on a sunny May afternoon when I was last there were black, white, Hispanic, Asian, native born, foreign, rich, poor, old, young: the word “diversity” does not do them justice. Over the shade trees, the green grass, and the sparkling water loomed the skyscrapers of Atlanta’s midtown. These striking edifices signify a prosperous modern Atlanta that exposition organizers could never have imagined. Nor could they have entertained the notion that all races enjoy the park without friction or violence.”
Theda Perdue, Race and the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition
Lakeem Garretson
“With interests one, and hopes the same, we’ll look like hopeful youth, / To see the new sun dawning with its satellites of truth.”
From an ode composed by Professor D. Webster Davis, read by Adrienne Herndon on Opening Day of the Negro Building on October 2, 1896. Included in Theda Perdue, Race and the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition
Tracie Gary
“From the very beginning organizers envisioned the Cotton States Exposition as a trade fair. Early suggestions for a name—the Cotton States and Subtropical Exposition or the Cotton States and Pan-American Exposition—-linked Atlanta to the Cotton States and PanAmerica, and the final choice—the Cotton States and International Exposition——-merely broadened the scope.”
Theda Perdue, Race and the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition
Allison Gunn
“In the 1890s, the decade of the Cotton States Exposition, violence increased, and Georgia led the nation with at least 386 lynchings between 1889 and 1918.”
Theda Perdue, Race and the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition
Samuel Mullman
“Over the shade trees, the green grass, and the sparkling water loomed the skyscrapers of Atlanta’s midtown. These striking edifices signify a prosperous modern Atlanta that exposition organizers could never have imagined.”
Theda Perdue, Race and the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition
Lauren King
“The souths our common country,
each must strive to do the right.
With interests one, and hopes the
same, we’ll look like hopeful
youth,
To see the new sun dawning with its
satellites of truth;
Disfranchisement, injustice, and
prejudices gone,
We’ll both rejoice together at the
coming of the dawn.”
(From an ode composed by Professor D. Webster Davis, read by Adrienne Herndon on Opening Day of the Negro Building on October 2, 1896)
Included in Theda Perdue, Race and the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition
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