Gov. Brian Kemp signs restrictive Georgia voting bill into law in front of painting of former plantation grounds
- Kemp signed Georgia's voting bill into law against the backdrop of former plantation grounds.
- The connection was made by Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch.
- Democrats have criticized the new law as a throwback to the Jim Crow-era that targets Black voters.
GOP Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia on Thursday signed into law SB 202, the state's sweeping and highly-controversial voting bill, against the backdrop of the grounds of a former slave plantation, according to a historical connection made by Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch.
The revelation comes as leaders such as President Joe Biden, US Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia, and former Georgia state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, civil rights groups, and national Democratic-aligned organizations band together to protest the newly-signed law, which has been criticized for targeting the state's large bloc of Black voters.
Kemp signed the bill in his private office as he was surrounded by six GOP lawmakers, with a painting called "Brickhouse Road - Callaway PLNT" by Siberian-born artist Olessia Maximenko in the background.
The grounds of the Callaway Plantation, located in Wilkes County, in the northeastern part of the state between Athens and Augusta, appear to be depicted in the painting.
The plantation was established in 1785 with the construction of a Log Cabin by Job Callaway, eventually becoming a 3,000-acre working plantation, according to the Washington-Wilkes Historical Foundation.
In 1869, after the end of the Civil War, the Brick House, which is seen in the painting, was completed.
The site is now "a 56-acre historic restoration project" that "offers a glimpse into the bygone era of working plantations in the agricultural South," according to the Foundation.
In a document, the Georgia Council for the Arts describes a partnership with the office of the governor to display "354 works of art" in the executive offices at the state Capitol and the Governor's Mansion in order "to capture the diversity and uniqueness of communities and natural terrain throughout Georgia as seen, explored, and depicted through the artist's eye."
-Will Bunch Sign Up For My Newsletter (@Will_Bunch) March 26, 2021
Kemp approving the widely-criticized voting bill with the backdrop of such imagery was called out by Bunch, which gained additional significance after state Rep. Park Cannon, a Black woman, was arrested for knocking on the governor's door during the private bill signing.
"The promotional sites gloss over the fact that by the time of the Civil War, the Callaway Plantation only thrived because of the back-breaking labor of at least 100 enslaved people and perhaps many more who were held in cruel human bondage," Bunch wrote in his column.
He added: "The Callaway Plantation is a monument to Georgia's history of brutal white supremacy that unfortunately didn't disappear when ... enslaved people were emancipated in 1865. By the 1890s, Georgia's white ruling class enacted a series of harsh Jim Crow laws to segregate all public facilities and block most Black people from voting."
Biden on Friday slammed the new law as a "blatant attack on the Constitution" and further described it as "Jim Crow in the 21st century."
The new law contains provisions that limit drop box usage, reduce the amount of time between general elections and runoff elections, block the use of mobile voting vans, and criminalize handing out water or food to voters waiting in line at polling precincts.
In both the 2020 primary election and early voting periods, many voters, especially in majority-Black areas in Atlanta, had to endure long lines in order to vote.
Kemp responded to Biden's comments, alleging that "it is obvious" the president has not read the bill.
"There is nothing 'Jim Crow' about requiring a photo or state-issued ID to vote by absentee ballot - every Georgia voter must already do so when voting in-person," he said in a statement. "President Biden, the left, and the national media are determined to destroy the sanctity and security of the ballot box."
Insider reached out to Kemp's office for comment and received a response from press secretary Mallory Blount.
"The mainstream media is just trying to distract from the Election Integrity Act which makes it easier to vote and harder to cheat in Georgia, while also expanding voting access for Georgia citizens and securing the ballot box," 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."
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