When Kimberly Wallace turned on the news after she got home Friday night, she saw Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signing a bill into law that critics have labeled Jim Crow 2.0 because of the disruptions it would mean to voters, particularly Black voters.
But Wallace, who is Black, noticed something else in the room where Kemp signed the bill. On the wall, she said, was a painting that depicts the plantation on which her family members worked, going back to slavery.
Wallace said at first, she didn’t think twice about the painting. But “when I was watching the news last night, and I saw what plantation that was, that’s the plantation that my family worked at.”
When she realized it was the Callaway Plantation in Washington, Georgia, “I gasped,” she said.
Generations of her family worked there dating back to slavery, Wallace said. More recently, her father was a sharecropper picking cotton at the plantation.
The optics of Kemp signing that bill into law in front of that painting was “very rude and very disrespectful to me, to my family, to Black people of Georgia,” Wallace said.
In a statement to CNN, Mallory Blount, press secretary for the governor’s office, said news of the painting was an attempt by the media to “distract” from the new law.
“The house in the painting was built in 1869, after the abolition of slavery,” she said. “The painting was selected by the Georgia Council for the Arts’ ‘Art of Georgia’ program which rotates different pieces of art for display throughout the state capitol.”
Job Callaway built a log cabin on the property in 1785, which grew to a 3,000-acre working plantation by the 1860s, according to the plantation’s website. The plantation features a slave cabin that was built in 1840, it says.
Republicans have defended the new law, dubbed Election Integrity Act of 2021, saying it’s required to boost confidence in voting after last year’s election. Kemp said the law will “ensure elections in Georgia are secure, fair, and accessible.”
The law includes new voter identification requirements for absentee ballots, empowers state officials to take over local elections boards, limits the use of ballot drop boxes and makes it a crime to approach voters waiting in line to give them food and water.
“The part about not being able to give people water, the part about not feeding people, like what is that?” Wallace said. “What in their mind would think that it’s not right to give a thirsty person some water, in any situation, whether they’re voting, or whatever. It’s ridiculous. You’re supposed to be making it easier for people to vote, not harder.”
The arrest of Democrat state Rep. Park Cannon Friday was also upsetting for Wallace. The Black state representative was arrested after knocking on Kemp’s office door while protesting the bill.
“That whole thing symbolized everything that’s going on in Georgia right now. Black people are coming out, Black people are voting, they don’t like that,” Wallace said. “So they’re going to try everything they can to stop it.”
Wallace said her father was a sharecropper, picking cotton at the plantation. He was drafted to serve his country in Vietnam, and when he came home from the war, he was told he had to use the back door at a restaurant.
Wallace was at a rally Saturday outside of Atlanta City Hall protesting the new voter law. As much as things may seem right now to be unchanged from Georgia’s past, efforts to stop people from voting will fail, she said.
“It’s not going to work, because we are fueled by the power of our ancestors, and we are going to change things. It’s a new Georgia.”