Ghosts of an ugly past

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The Gold Dust Twins have been hidden from view for more than 90 years on Auburn Avenue in d’town Atlanta, but a 2008 tornado and the recent demolition of an adjacent building have uncovered this hand-painted ghost sign from the early 1900’s when Sweet Auburn was a thriving African American business district.

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The Gold Dust twins were one of the earliest brand-driven trademarks in American advertising during the late 19th century that drew heavily on negative African American racial stereotypes. The twins were often comically depicted, along with a huge stack of dishes in a washtub, and the images appeared on product packaging, in print advertising, and full-color murals painted on buildings throughout the South.

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Despite what many consider to be one of the most racist ad campaigns in history, there is talk of what place, if any, this iconic piece of history has in the revitalization of the Sweet Auburn district.

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On its route up and down Auburn Avenue, the shiny new d’town streetcar passes the Gold Dust Twins and then this mural of Congressman John Lewis; I hope the incongruity of images sparks conversation among its riders.

Good vibrations

Your paradigm of an alligator, if you happen to have one, is likely of a large, aquatic, mostly solitary reptile, according to a statistic I just made up.

:-)

If you’re at all like me, you also think they’re kinda scary, when you remember to think of them at all.  As someone who’s only just learning about alligators, I have to constantly remind myself of the possibility of an alligator whenever I kneel down at the edge of a pond or marsh here in the Southeast.

The Georgia coast and Florida are rich in ‘gators. There are large gators and baby-sized gators; gators who sun themselves and camouflaged gators and midnight-black gators; puddle gators and swamp gators and stealthy, silent-as-death gators; smiling, don’t-you-want-to-pet-me gators and American Coot-eating gators; and just this past weekend at St. Marks NWR, I can add to my list: bellowing gators; and… well, very many gators.

Alligators aren’t an everyday worry for me here in the city, so a lot of the year is pretty shy on them. But when we travel south looking for ducks here for the winter, the gators make their presence known, taking up residence on banks and logs, near salt water and brackish, flowing and still. They are one of my very favorite surprises of living in the South, though it takes a certain amount of caution to enjoy them. If you want to be safe, loving alligators from a distance is a good place to start.

And that bellowing sound they make… the closest thing I can liken it to is a motorboat that’s slow to start.

Ever heard it?