Proctor boycotts commission’s retreat at Goodwood
By St. Clair Murraine Outlook staff writer
Leon County commissioner Bill Proctor lived up to his promise and didn’t attend a Monday retreat with his peers. Proctor refused to be a part of the all-day meeting because of the venue’s ties to slavery.
The meeting took place at Goodwood Museum & Gardens, site of a former plantation where slaves fielded corn and cotton. Proctor said he’d attended events at Goodwood in the past, but decided to withdraw his participation this time after he was recently informed about Goodwood’s legacy.
The commission met to discuss its list of priorities for 2017 and beyond.
“It just hurts me that a time like this with White nationalism and White supremacy; it’s just not where I want to go to a plantation to hold a meeting on the future of Leon County,” Proctor said. “I’m going to be sitting there, frustrated because I’m going to be thinking where I’m at.”
Proctor said he didn’t ask commission members to move the meeting, but he wished they did because tax payers’ money was used to pay for the meeting.
“Leon County Government should not validate or lend credibility to a slave plantation by holding a taxpayer-sponsored meeting there,” Proctor wrote in a memo to his peers. “We should not go there again.”
Proctor made his position known late last week.
However, Nancy Morgan, a co-executive director at Goodwood said that Goodwood’s history isn’t a surprise.
“This is a distraction and I feel bad that this had come up,” said Morgan, adding that visitors are told of Goodwood’s ties to slavery during tours of the property.
“Architecturally, socially, economically; so many places in our community today have huge signs of slavery,” Morgan said. “It’s not something that we hide; it’s not something that we celebrate. It’s something we try to present a balanced picture of. It’s something we try to understand so that we can all move forward together.”
Morgan said she’s reached out to Proctor in hopes of starting a conversation that would encourage him to return to Goodwood.
“We hope that he too will engage in the things that we are doing and some day Goodwood could be comfortable for him to come as opposed to a place of discomfort and sadness,” she said.
Goodwood was built in the late 1930s and had several owners until 1948 when it was purchased one last time. After living at Goodwood for many years, Thomas Hood began planning for the restoration of the main building as a house museum and public park in 1978. After his death in 1990, agent for Goodwood Museum and Gardens, Inc. began to oversee the property.
Over the years, members of the overseeing board have included Blacks, Morgan said. There isn’t currently a Black member; however, Morgan said it’s something that Goodwood’s directors are pushing for.
“We certainly would like to continue to have diversity on the board,” she said. “This is something that’s important.”
Morgan said there will be several events coming to Goodwood that feature Black history. One of the first events will be an exhibit of art work by Clementine Hunter, featuring her work that focuses on rural life in African American communities.
Other programs will include a one-woman play, “Ain’t I a woman?” that features the lives of Sojourner Truth and other Black women. The play is based on a speech delivered by Truth in 1851 at a women’s convention in Ohio.
“Goodwood tries to be an inclusive place that is going to tell all sides of the history that we share in this region,” Morgan said.