Aunt Fanny’s Cabin: it is important to put a face with the name

Smyrna City Hall in article about Smyrna millage rateSmyrna City Hall (photo by Larry Felton Johnson, Licensed under Creative Commons 4.0)

[This guest opinion article is by Shaun Martin, a Smyrna resident, and architect]

By Shaun Martin

In light of the recent vote to demolish/release Smyrna’s Aunt Fanny’s Cabin, it is important to put a face with a name.

Fanny Williams, aka Aunt Fanny, was a brilliant, resourceful woman who understood the Jim Crow system and worked it to serve the needs of the African American community. Her story is one of resilience, fortitude, grace, humility and activism.

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Her life was hard, her commitment to a greater cause was evident and she persevered thru it all. Her recipes and cooking put Smyrna on the map as prominent people came from all over the US to get a taste of authentic southern cooking.

This fact alone is central to Smyrna’s history.

She understood that her brand was key to her own success and hence, that of her community allowing her the ability to secure donations to ultimately cofound Cobb County’s first black hospital.

This is what I call a victim turned victor in the grand scheme of things. This would ultimately be the reason why she would be targeted by the KKK and other hate groups and yet she persisted!!!

With no offspring to give her proper burial, her body rests somewhere unknown. Her honor deserves more.

While it is true the building embodies a spirit of the worst of humanity, it is a missed opportunity to not repurpose its presence to tell her story of resilience and fortitude which is also a reflection of Smyrna as well.

What once was a city that prided itself on 0% Black population is now one of the most diverse communities in Cobb County.

My hope is that Smyrna does her memory justice and does not reduce her contribution to a bronze plaque to be forgotten and trampled on.

Cancel culture robs us of the redemptive blessings of the human experience. Fanny Williams was much too important for that.

How many of us will be so fortunate in our lifetime to be primary donors to a building and have the privilege to participate in its groundbreaking. That would be a feat in the current day especially dealing with all of the threats she faced back then.

Sometimes moving Smyrna into the future means embracing a mindset that enriches the present using the past as a spring-point for greater understanding and deeper experiences to be had by ALL, especially for our children.

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