Mayor: No bids for Georgia ‘Old South’ restaurant

The Cobb County NAACP says the city should retain ownership of the restaurant

A replica of a well-known Georgia restaurant that served Southern staples but also used racist imagery appears headed for demolition despite objections from the local NAACP chapter.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported this week that no one had come forward to bid on Aunt Fanny’s Cabin in the Atlanta suburb of Smyrna by a Tuesday deadline. A task force in Smyrna had recommended that it be put up for demolition unless someone came forward to remove it from city property.

Aunt Fanny’s Cabin, a long-shuttered restaurant that once one of the most popular eateries in the South during World War II, pictured on Nov. 18, 2021 in Smyrna, Ga. A city task force has been assembled that could restore some of its former luster, but not everyone wants to use public funds to immortalize the restaurant that thrived, in part, by making demeaning racial stereotypes profitable.(Matt Bruce/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Not a single historical group or preservation society had expressed interest in moving it, Smyrna Mayor Derek Norton told the AJC. He said the city was committed to honoring Fanny Williams — the Black woman the restaurant is named after.

But the Cobb County NAACP and former Councilwoman Maryline Blackburn say the right way to do that is for the city to retain ownership of the building, keep it at its current location and restore it.

“You can’t erase the history,” Blackburn told the AJC. “I believe the city thinks that if we get rid of the cabin we erase the history.”

The now-defunct restaurant became a popular dining destination starting in the mid-1900s. Its guests included sports icons Jack Dempsey and Ty Cobb and Hollywood star Doris Day. Former President Jimmy Carter stopped at the cabin during his campaigns.

But it also embraced an “Old South” decor and theme that was adopted by other restaurants, the AJC has previously reported.

According to news reports, Black youths hired as servers wore wooden menu boards around their necks and danced on table tops, and the walls had framed advertisements for slaves. Williams sat on the front porch in a faded dress and headwrap telling customers about her days as a slave, though she never was a slave, according to the AJC.

In the Atlanta area, there was Aunt Fanny’s Cabin. They made the black staff dress like slaves and hired young men or boys to wear the end around their necks. https://t.co/psDxXlrDX8 pic.twitter.com/yakJGXGHpi

— Done with this crap (@nclivingnc) June 17, 2020

Smyrna officials have blasted “the caricature and overt indignity of the theme of the establishment that was Aunt Fanny’s Cabin.” Norton said he didn’t think preserving the cabin was a way to honor Williams.

“This is not some cancel culture moment trying to erase our history,” he said.

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