Saturday, September 4, 2021

Interview with Black Reparations Author Hattie Thomas Whitehead


Giving Voice to Linnentown

1.What motivated you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea or experience and turning it into a book? I wrote this book not only to share the data and documents related to the Urban Renewal contract, but I also wanted to give readers an idea of what life was like in Linnentown. Whenever I interviewed and was asked about life in Linnentown, there was never enough time to cover life in the community. Also, some of the data and the university's past administration referred to Linnentown as a "slum." Linnentown was not a slum. It was a community with hardworking families who lived there, and the community had reached 66 % homeownership. Being able to own a home while working a minimum wage job was such an incredible accomplishment. Adults were supportive of each other and all children. We were happy. Therefore, the true story of our community had to be told. When urban renewal happened in 1962, this greatly affected families. It was a hard emotional blow to families, some of which had lived there for four generations—having to move put families in financial hardship because there were no resources and help available. Writing this book was an opportunity that would allow me to shed light on this prosperous community and how the urban renewal contract between UGA and the city of Athens led to its erasure.  

2. What is it about and who is it for? This book is a narrative about my family and my upbringing in a small Black thriving southern low-income community in the 1960s. It details family interactions, neighbors, and games we played as children. It describes the working skills of our women and men and how they used these skills to repair whatever was broken when a neighbor reached out to them. It tells of the leadership and support adults gave to neighborhood children who needed planks to build small gadgets. This book chronicles families and children before and during urban renewal and its effect on my family. This book can be used as source material for learning and teaching how institutions used federal law to erase a community, separate families, and red-line homeowners to public housing, all in the name of progress.  

3. What do you hope the reader will be left with after reading it?  I hope readers will understand the dark roles The University of Georgia (UGA) and the city of Athens played to gain access to the twenty-two acres of land in Linnentown. These two institutions were powerful and had the support of local businesses at that time. Acquiring land was done under the names of expansion, improvement, and new development. The property owners did not have any knowledge of the harm they would cause, in the coming months, years, for there were no notifications of any kind, not a single meeting with representatives from the city or university. Once property acquisitions started, houses were burned or demolished. Streets were closed, and construction equipment like bulldozers started up at midnight. I remember hearing the equipment run all night, and it completely terrorized families. All the activities caused tremendous stress to adults and children. Market values were not paid for these properties, and the amount paid was not enough to buy another property. The property owners mostly affected were the elderly and those on fixed incomes. This negative impact continued for years after being kicked out. Property owners had been "red-lined" for Public Housing. Although affordable housing was unreachable for most, a few families were able to purchase another property. When institutions are allowed to erase communities, the aftermath of what occurred follows for years or even generations.  

4. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers? Be willing to tell your story. Stories can bring light to pathways that had been previously dark, and the words on the pages can give light to directions. If you are writing a comedy, action, horror, drama, or novel, put your thoughts on paper each time one comes until you're ready to incorporate them in a book. And lastly, set a date to get started on an outline.  

5. What challenges did you overcome to write this book? Being a first-time author, I didn’t know the process of writing a book. I had all of these thoughts but no idea where to begin. I struggled with writing sequentially and what information to include in specific chapters. I also changed the chapters over and over, which was slowing down my writing. I also struggled to learn my writing style. These were significant hurdles to clear, but my writing flow improved as I stayed in the writing process and did not give up. 

6. If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours?  People should read my book because it is a compelling, true, and easy read. It describes a loving community and provides information on how two major entities used their power to push an agenda that negatively affected Black families. This book also describes my role in the Civil Rights movement and my current leadership role in seeking justice for Linnentown descendants. I share my story in this book because I want to give voice to this once-thriving community. My book could serve as a template and inspire others to get involved in their community.

About the Author: Hattie Thomas Whitehead is a native of Athens, Georgia. She worked 27 years as an Operation Manager and then over ten years as a property manager. She is very active in various organizations in her community. One of the organizations Hattie works closely with is the Athens StepUp Scholarship Program. In 2011, Hattie organized the program for high school seniors who attend school in Athens-Clarke County. Since its inception, the program has awarded nearly 80 scholarships to students. In addition to working with the scholarship program, Hattie serves as the President and Community Outreach Coordinator for the Linnentown Project. While serving, she and the other first descendants wrote a resolution for recognition & redress for Linnentown, which the mayor and commissioners unanimously approved in February 2021. Hattie also serves as the chairperson of the Justice and Memory Project for Linnentown.


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About Brian Feinblum

Brian Feinblum should be followed on Twitter @theprexpert. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2021. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America. For more information, please consult: 

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