Sunday Reads — May 15

Today we’re exploring history and hopes for what’s next – after all, knowing what’s happened empowers you for the future.


The Bryan County Mega Site is 2,284 acres and is adjacent to I-16 and has rail service connected. The site in the unincorporated Ellabell area sits within a few miles of boundaries for Bulloch, Chatham, Bryan and Effingham counties. Credit: Savannah Harbor-Interstate 16 Corridor Joint Development Authority

A game changer

Reports this week that Hyundai has chosen the 2,300-acre north Bryan County megasite for its new Kia electric vehicle plant have regional planning officials smiling this week. The Savannah Harbor-I-16 Joint Development Authority has been investing time and money toward this anticipated announcement since 2015, and the state’s purchase of the site last year helped to speed the infrastructure work. The proximity to Chatham, Effingham, and Bulloch counties means immediate growth for them, as well as Liberty County to the south and other more nearby, rural counties like Evans, Tattnall and Long. After all, an anticipated 8,500 workers plus employees for supporting services have to live somewhere. The impact of this announcement, expected late next week, cannot be understated. Things to watch as the project takes off: state incentives to Hyundai, housing, environmental impact on the area near the Ogeechee, transportation, and schools.


Unidentified Native American girls at the Phoenix Indian School in June 1900 pray beside their beds. Credit: Photo via National Archives

History close to home

A new report released Wednesday from the Department of Interior surfaces the sad facts around 150 years of American history: the federal Native American boarding school system active from 1819 to 1969. While the report was widely noted in the U.S. Southwest, two of those schools were located in Georgia in Cartersville and in Murray County. Two more were close by, just across the border in Fort Mitchell, Ala., and in Chattanooga, Tenn. A story from the Arizona Mirror gives us the background for the schools, the report’s findings and the centuries of harm left in the schools’ wakes. During this time, generations of Native American children as young as 4 were taken from their homes and placed in a federal school system as part of systemic goals of assimilation.Their names were changed, hair cut and other cultural identifiers were often forcefully overridden. Many never returned home or died in the schools from poor conditions. The investigation identified marked and unmarked burial sites at 53 different schools. The federal efforts included the tribal removal effort many Georgians know as The Trail of Tears, where entire groups of Native Americans were taken from their homes and land, including parts of western and north Georgia, and marched to Oklahoma. The boarding school system consisted of 408 federal schools across 37 states. The report was developed in partnership with the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS), a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the ongoing trauma created by the U.S. Indian Boarding School policy. It’s the first-ever inventory of federally operated schools, including profiles and maps. “After generations, we still do not know how many children attended, how many children died, or how many children were permanently scarred for life because of these federal institutions,” said Deborah Parker, the coalition’s chief executive officer.


Covid: An update from last week

Last week we looked at the U.S. milestone of 1 million Covid deaths and the large potential undercount of deaths that can be attributed directly or indirectly to the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, a very in-depth look at the uncounted or “excess death” numbers was published by Betsy Ladyzhets, a data journalist who’s made it her mission to collect and understand all the data around the pandemic. She does this so that we all get a better idea of the virus’ full impact on our families, systems and culture. Ladyzhets, who writes the very thorough COVID-19 Data Dispatch and pieces for the statistical site 538, is straight-forward on the continuing questions around the counts and the descriptions.

Also last week, we received questions from a reader about the commonly repeated beliefs that hospitals may be inflating the death toll because they are financially incentivized when they listed Covid as a cause of death. In an interview with the The Current, U.S. Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter also hinted that the Covid toll may be artificially higher because the  Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act provided reimbursements for funerals tied directly to Covid deaths. These are commonly held concerns about fraud fueled by social and media personalities with separate agendas; the facts are not that simple.

So, here’s what we learned, and we thought we’d share so you’ll have the facts when it comes up again. The CARES Act provided some funding, but not for all. It included a 20% add-for Medicare patients with Covid during the public health emergency and there are caveats. It also created a $100 billion fund that used to financially assist hospitals — a “portion” of which will be “used to reimburse healthcare providers, at Medicare rates, for COVID-related treatment of the uninsured,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It’s also worth noting that health-care professionals would be violating their professional oaths to falsely claim or prescribe unneeded treatments or list incorrect causes of death. Here’s the best breakdown we could find to discuss the misinformation and the funding facts. Now, the funerals: FEMA can offer up to $9,000 in reimbursements for the funeral of a person whose death is documented to be from Covid. It was set up to help already-strapped families shoulder the unexpected costs of one or more deaths during a pandemic. The documentation process for the claim is stringent, and here’s the information on it directly from FEMA.


Liberty County deputies board a bus carrying Delaware State student-athletes. Credit: Screenshot from video

Considerable

Here are some stories you may have missed this week. Consider these:

  • Liberty County Sheriff’s deputies accused of racial profiling after lacrosse team traffic stop: Delaware State University President Tony Allen said Friday the university will ask for an Attorney General’s investigation into the traffic stop on Interstate in Liberty County. The bus, carrying the school’s women’s lacrosse team, was stopped and deputies’ body cameras show passenger items were searched. The driver was not ticketed. The team, one of only five women’s lacrosse teams fielded by a Historically Black College or University, was traveling home from tournament in Florida. The story was first broken by Delaware State student journalist and lacrosse team member Sydney Anderson.
  • Low police morale, a chief with no performance reviews: Savannahnow.com has compiled a look at the longstanding morale problems in the Savannah Police Department. An independent report finds internal department disconnects deepen as violent crime spikes. Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter has been on the job since 2018 and he is working without a contract, now that his three-year contract has ended. He hasn’t had an annual evaluation, as the city’s been stuck in a revolving door of city managers until the past year.
  • Georgia’s prisons and 125 suicides: The Atlanta Journal Constitution has done great work compiling data from the state’s besieged prison system and death certificates to understand the issues driving a death toll that’s twice the national average. The state has paid at least $4.3 million to settle claims from families and more suits are pending.

Jake Shore will join The Current on June 1.

We’re growing!

This week it became official: Jake Shore, an experienced investigative journalist and a Report for America fellow, will join The Current June 1 to cover public safety and accountability issues in Coastal Georgia.

Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. It is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, a nonprofit journalism organization.

Prior to joining The Current, Shore worked as a senior writer for The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette papers near Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, covering breaking news, crime, courts and police. He reported on the Murdaugh saga, police misconduct and crime trends and did a series on the rise of drivers suspended for being unable to pay back their traffic tickets. The series won several South Carolina Press Association awards in 2021. You’ll hear more from Jake soon….


The Savannah Park and Tree Commission passed this motion in June 1935. White people had petitioned the commission to remove the benches where Black people gathered. Credit: Savannah Municipal Archives

For your second cup: Access denied

The City of Savannah’s Municipal Archives hold a wonderful trove of Coastal Georgia history. And this week, in partnership with Georgia Southern University, it posted a new online exhibit “Jim Crow in Savannah’s Parks,” examining how Savannah denied Black people access to the best public parks and recreational facilities and how Black taxpayers paid for a superior park system for whites.

The multimedia work was prepared by Jeffrey M. Ofgang, an intern with the City of Savannah’s Municipal Archives who now holds a Public History Graduate Certificate from Georgia Southern University. The exhibit utilizes the city archives to show how segregation manifested in planning documents, news stories, city code, meetings and engineering department work for parks, playgrounds, pools, sports, and cemeteries. Hosted by GSU University Libraries, the exhibit can be accessed at https://georgiasouthern.libguides.com/savannahparks.

It’s fairly common to hear long-timers say Savannah had a progressive reputation when it comes to segregation, having avoided violent reactions to integration. And historians have noted that, as well. However, these documents make it clear that racial segregation was codified as park benches were ordered moved to stop Black people from enjoying them in parks to planning documents that show park and recreational facilities like Grayson Stadium were designed and engineered for segregation. The historic journey makes it clear that official change arrived only after public action through economic boycotts and the ballot box.

Take some time to browse the site for a clear view of how a lack of equal access becomes systemic and the work it takes to change it. A companion “Hungry for History” talk is available online at https://youtu.be/WT3-25oVS14.



Historic report on Federal Indian Boarding Schools finds two in Georgia, 400 nationwide

Federal Indian boarding school system had 2 Georgia sites where children were taken from families and attempted to assimilate them through education, punishment. Many never returned home.

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Hyundai considers Ellabell for new Kia EV plant

The new plant would bring an estimated 8,500 jobs to the area. The timing of an official announcement isn’t known.

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Q&A: U.S. Rep. Earl L. ‘Buddy’ Carter, candidate for U.S. House, District 1

The Republican incumbent representing the 1st District seat in Congress discusses why he wants to be chair of the powerful House Budget Committee, why the CDC is wrong about the pandemic, and the future of the GOP.

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Liberty County sheriff opens probe into traffic stop, drug search involving HBCU student-athletes

As detailed in an article written by a lacrosse player in the Delaware State college newspaper, deputies stopped the bus for illegally using the left lane, before proceeding to search the team’s luggage that was stored in the cargo bay beneath the bus. No drugs were found.

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Drug overdoses due to fentanyl spike in Georgia

Drug overdoses continue to increase in Georgia, but the COVID-19 pandemic saw a meteoric rise in deaths, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

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The Tide: Presentation shows segregated history of Savannah facilities, parks

Documents show racial segregation was codified as park benches were ordered moved to stop Black people from enjoying them in parks to planning documents that show facilities like Grayson Stadium were designed and engineered for segregation.

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Tybee bans beach smoking

Tybee Island passed an ordinance to ban smoking on its beaches, crosswalks and pier effective June 1, 2022.

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What a spaceport study in Michigan means for Camden

Feasibility study said Michigan plan to launch one rocket each week would generate annual revenue the same as that of two additional fast-food chain restaurants.

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