Cobb County

Mother, children enslaved in Cobb County to be honored on eve of Juneteenth

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — Monday marks the start of the Juneteenth holiday week, and cities and counties across the metro will be celebrating.

Cobb County is honoring the memory of the more than 3,000 people who were enslaved there in a unique way.

Local and state leaders will gather with neighbors of a historic Smyrna community to unveil what will be known as Matilda’s Garden.

It will be located near the Covered Concord Bridge Historic District next to the park where hikers enter the Silver Comet Trailhead.

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Matilda’s Garden will include flowers surrounding a black steel park bench. The bench is different because it is part of the Toni Morrison Society’s Bench by the Road Project.

The benches are symbolic markers taken from the author’s remarks in 1989 in which she described a lack of monuments honoring the lives of Africans who were enslaved.

Members of the Concord Covered Bridge Historic District partnered with the Toni Morrison Society to bring the bench to Smyrna.

Angelia Pressley lives nearby the garden and said, “It helps with the healing process.”

She believes it is one of the first ones in the metro to honor a specific person: Matilda Ruff.

“I think about Matilda a lot,” said Pat Burns.

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When Burns moved to the historic spot, she said she found Ruff and three of her children’s names written on a note card in her cupboard: Calvin, Zeida and Rhoda.

“And I felt in my bones there was something important about those names,” said Burns.

At the library, she said she discovered the names in census data.

She said the data shows Matilda lived on the property located directly across the road from where the bench will be located.

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Local and state leaders will be at Matilda’s Garden Tuesday morning to unveil the bench at 10:00 am, making it ready for reflection in time for Juneteenth the following day.

“It’s really hard to express the gratitude of understanding of having this bench here,” said Pressley.

If you are interested in attending, you are encouraged to sign up at this link.

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