Two Black Girls in an All White Town – What the Hell Were We Thinking?

“Whose idea was this?” Cheril had the nerve to ask as we drove toward the second stop on our Christmas road trip. The sun was setting, it was colder than we’d hoped and we were beginning to wind up a mountain with no guardrails. Thank god the GPS was still working.

City of Trenton flag

“It was your idea,” Monica reminds. “You have us in this random town with no street lights going to a horse farm. And I’ve seen a bunch of confederate flags since we’ve gotten here. This was your idea!”

Uh oh.

As we continued to our destination we passed a car every few minutes or so. We also kept seeing the flag, which made me start to second guess this “let’s go to a random small town” idea. It wasn’t too late. We could always forget about the pre-paid lodging and hightail it north, but no, we weren’t about to be afraid of a town we hadn’t really gotten to know or its people. That’s not how we roll.

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So as we continued up the mountain and the sky got darker, Monica started Googling the flag to see just why so many people had it on their cars (besides the obvious suspicion). It’s at that time we realized the old confederate flag was actually embedded in the City of Trenton flag. Gee, not willing to move forward? Apparently not. We were still going to go for it. We’ve always done what we wanted to do (with a measure of caution) so there was no reason to back peddle now. Thankfully, we safely made it to our destination just a few minutes after it had gotten completely dark. There we were, two black girls with two, don’t-count-on-them-to-save-your-life-dogs on a 60+ acre horse farm in confederate Georgia—with two white hosts.

Ollie the white horse

Welcome to Trenton, GA – population ~2,301, 95.5% white, 0.7%black. “White’s only pies” was determined to be our code if we needed to get the hell out of dodge. If you’ve seen the movie “Life,” you know what we mean. If you aren’t familiar it, please take this moment to get acquainted:

Back to our trip.

To be fair, we pride ourselves on both having GREAT intuition and knew that we’d be fine with the hosts/bed & breakfast we had chosen. They knew we were black, gay and female and didn’t give any weird indication that we’d be turned into horse feed upon arrival. And as we suspected, they were both sweet as pie! In fact, they weren’t originally from Trenton, GA, which probably made all the difference. They showed us where we’d be staying and gave us a brief overview of the farm, the town and things to do when we ventured up to Chattanooga, TN, which was about 25 minutes north.

The farm was beautiful. We didn’t really get to explore it until the morning of our third day because we’d spent the previous two days in Tennessee, but when we did, what an experience!

Cheril at horsefarm in Trenton, GA

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We were encouraged to walk the grounds ourselves but to go slowly when driving in an out. There was all kinds of wildlife beyond the horses who belonged to the owners of the farm. As we came and went, our final night found us hungry with few options to choose from. We’d seen a billboard for “Hillbilly Willy’s BBQ” and couldn’t stop ourselves from driving by. The code words would be the same if it ended up being a stupid idea, but it turned out to look more like a run-of-the mill pizza shop than anything special.

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We didn’t bother going in.

So, hungry and tired from a day of sightseeing we decide to check out one of the buffets in town that our hosts had told us about. If any of you reading this personally knows Monica, you’ll know getting her to go anywhere with the name “buffet” in it is a feat in and of itself. So off we went to RANDY’S.

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Great. Cheril noticed the “Christian” greeting at the top of the menu right away and we both gave each other a look. We stood out like a couple of ants in a bag full of sugar! The petite old lady who greeted us was nice enough, but Cheril caught her staring a number of times. It was a curious stare, more like “I don’t know the last time I’ve seen one like you/wonder where y’all from” than “you better drive 35 miles down the road and get up out of here!” We knew that she knew we were tourists because of the Ruby Falls baseball cap Cheril was wearing but it still made dinner interesting no less. The food was just fine, tasty even and the service was good too. Whew. (We don’t usually practice public displays of affection so we’re sure that helped.)

What we did notice as we drove about Trenton was the sheer number of churches! How can such a small town need SO MANY churches? The were everywhere; small ones, big ones, all with trinities of crosses towering over the sinners below. There were enough that we made of counting them and called it Baptist Bingo! We lost count of how many we saw in the end though.

crosses

Through our hosts, we confirmed that the town was deeply religious and seemingly stuck in a pre-segregation, pre-women’s liberation era. It was suggested that if some of the residents had a chance to fight the civil war again they would. Geez! What was most surprising, however, was how women are allegedly viewed: inferior and needing to stay in their places. What year is this?? Apparently that’s the way things go in Trenton, and the residents in general don’t take kindly to new things. They opposed a yoga studio because it was ungodly and actually brought flyers in to the owner to advise her about the error of her ways. Everyone knows everyone in Trenton, and if you buy property there without transferring your assets to a local bank you’re suspicious. Oh, and if you get a traffic ticket it makes their published-once-a-week newspaper. It’s news! Hell, we felt as though we were in a time warp as we listened to these stories. We don’t regret going at all. It’s great to get out of the metropolitan bubble in which we live. It let us know that the people we see on the news during election times really do exist somewhere. lol

On our last day at the farm we got a meet and greet with the horses. We fed them carrots, pet them and just hung out with them for about an hour before hitting the road.

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blogCheril-horse

Would we go back to Trenton? Probably not (unless it’s back to this farm in the fall), but it isn’t because we had a bad experience in this very red part of a red state. In fact, it’s because we need to make more stops in places that don’t get exposure to folks like us. Sorry, the war ended long ago and times, they are a changin’. One interesting thing we took away is that folks from Atlanta are starting to move north and people in Chattanooga are starting to move south, so, those in places like Trenton will have to learn to live with new people whether they like it or not. They are no longer isolated thanks to highways that didn’t exist back in its so-called days of purity. And by gosh, white people and black people really do co-exist elsewhere!

This was definitely an interesting stop on our 2014 road trip. More photos are below, including a few from a pit stop we made at Cloudland Canyon State Park (a tip from our hosts)!

Until next time… blogdog

19 thoughts on “Two Black Girls in an All White Town – What the Hell Were We Thinking?

  1. Ashley Ramirez

    Lol! Seems like a great trip! Then again, I would probably have not stayed and driven back to the east coast! Haha! @ Cheril observing the Christian motto at the top of the menu. I would have given my girlfriend “the look” as well and jetted!

  2. Jo Anne Moore

    Loved the post. Reminded me of Jamestown Tennessee area where my family and I spent a week at a cabin in the Smokey Mountains. We never saw another Black person the whole time we were there. My sister and I have made it our goal to shop every mile of the World’s Longest Yard Sale that happens every year in the first week of August. The yard sale goes from Gadsden Alabama to the Michigan-Ohio border along Route 27. Much of it is in towns and cities like the one you described. We have been doing this for several years and have had only one incident with a klansman who set up shop outside Mentone Alabama, and he was basically all mouth. The guy in the next booth apologized to us for his stupidity. We have learned not to prejudge anyone in our travels. I would have stopped at the Hillbilly BBQ just to compare ribs…thanks for sharing.. By the way…Mentone Alabama remains our favorite stop out of the 700 miles of the yard sale…

    1. cheril Post author

      Thanks for commenting, Jo Anne. I’ve never heard of the World’s Longest Yard Sale. That sounds very interesting indeed! We’ve never been to Alabama together (I went once as a teenager), but I’ll keep Mentone in mind for whenever we make it back that way.

  3. Claudia Moss

    Exciting! I very much enjoyed this post, although I will admit I was a bit frightened in some places in your telling. I was hoping everything would be alright, and thank goodness it was. 🙂

    It made me think of my visits in North Georgia!

    I am fascinated with the way you and Monica explore the world together!

    Happy Travels,

    C

  4. YotaDee

    Awesome. My wife is normally residing in a different part of the U.S. This leave for our daughter and I to create the name Dot and Dottie..when the three of us are together it becomes Dot, Dottie, and Dottier. At times because the little towns are the best. Dee

  5. Pingback: Two Days in Chattanooga, Tennessee | Cheril and Monica's blog

  6. Emily

    I’m from Trenton, Ga and I can assure you this is not a racist town. There are plenty of African Americans living here. I know many of them. I am also bestfriends with the owners granddaughter of RANDYS restaurant.

    The confederate flag is not a display of racism, it displays the souths rebellion against more government control (the union). Read up on your history before you judge. I can ask anyone in this “small town” why they fly the rebel flag high. They will tell you it is to represent their freedom and pride for the south, NOT racism whatsoever. You make this blog post with the view of Trenton being a judgemental and racist town, but in my opinion you’re being judgemental and racist towards us. It seems you’re “looking” for a strange look whenever you sit down to eat at one of our restaurants. I know the waitresses at RANDYS would never do that because I know them. We are all very kind people here, accepting any kind of skin color you may be, you just have the wrong view of things and a small mind.

    1. cheril Post author

      Emily,

      First of all thanks for responding. Second, I’d like to address some of your comments. I think you missed threads of humor throughout this with the “White Only Pies” references and the blog title itself. We did not go to Trenton looking for racism (who would want that on their Christmas holiday?). We didn’t even know that of the ~2,300 people in the town, approximately 16 of them would be black (according to census stats); and I guess that could qualify as “plenty” if you want it to. But even if we did know the stats beforehand, that wouldn’t automatically make Trenton racist in our view.

      With regards to Randy’s that was my personal experience. It happened. But as I mentioned above the restaurant wasn’t bad at all. The food and service were fine and the staff was friendly, but I did catch a few curious glances. It could have been because I was a tourist, or someone she’d never seen, or simply because she was bored and glancing around. No big deal. We still left a 20% tip. Other than that, the impression of Trenton that we got was given to us by people who live there.

      We do know our history and we know that the Confederacy was a group secessionist states that depended heavily on the use of slaves to keep their agricultural economies booming. They didn’t want government involvement because government involvement meant a disruption of that profitable system and an end to slavery. Therefore, people can try to convince themselves that the flag was all about southern pride if they want to but history reveals otherwise. The fact is the flag historically represents pro-slavery and a desire to secede from the union. You’re free to feel proud of that symbol if you want to. We choose not to.

      1. Emily

        Well I believe those stats are wrong. I know quite a few and have seen many others on my friends social media that attend the schools in Trenton. (Excuse my use of the word “plenty”, I didn’t mean that in a way of saying “there is already too many”). I do know for a fact that they are treated just the same as any white person in trenton. I saw a couple of African American teenagers walk into Chad’s Place and everyone hopped on them excited to see them (I didn’t know them). My point being, they are treated very kindly.

        As for RANDYS, I get what you’re saying, but we don’t get tourist around here so that’s more than likely why she was looking at you.

        And finally the Confederate flag, you can believe what you want about it, we all have our own opinions. But just please know that the people in our town use that flag as a representation of freedom and southern pride, not racism. History is taught differently everywhere. The North won so “to the winner goes the spoils”. They got to write all of the history and in turn, made the south seem horrific. In reality, they had slaves too and there were African Americans who VOLUNTEERED to be a part of the conferderate army (read “the south was right” to see actual pictures and names of the people). That book is a fantastic read as well. The south had slaves for longer, only because the north was more industrialized and the south was still all farming. The south didn’t have a choice, especially not with their huge plantations. The violence to the slave, was not right. But the north did it too. My point being that yes, slaves were treated wrongly, but it wasn’t just the south. The south has always wanted less government control, and the north wanted a union.

        My final statement is that no, I do not like to argue as it may seem lol, but I was quite offended by your post because I live in this town.

        1. cheril Post author

          We didn’t see any black people until we hit Chattanooga, but it didn’t matter. We weren’t there to be surrounded by black people. Heck, we live in an extremely diverse area and are rarely anywhere that’s all black or all white. We went to Trenton to spend time on a farm and explore the scenery, which we accomplished without incident. We didn’t anticipate or have any sense of hatred from any people we encountered. And if anything, we were more surprised to hear about the lack of progress for women in business and politics than anything about race. Lack of female progress was way more interesting to learn about than racial norms. I’m still curious about it because I find it hard to digest. Can you confirm or deny that it’s hard for women in Trenton to branch out into positions of authority?

          About the flag; we’ve also seen it flown proudly in rural parts of Pennsylvania as well as Ohio and have felt the same thing, “we need to get out of here.” So it’s not just a southern thing. The problem is that it’s a symbol with different meanings to different people. For some, it’s a symbol of rebellion and anti-government. To others, it’s a reminder of slavery, war and one of American’s ugliest moments in history. It represents time stained by blood, barbarism and an unwillingness to change. Its origin may have been in pride and heritage but as time went on it morphed into even more complexity as it was used a banner against the desegregation of schools. So while I understand that for some it is symbol of southern pride, for myself and probably many other black people, it’s a sign of potential trouble. Of hatred. And unwelcomeness. When I see it, a primal instinct goes off and I want to get away from it as soon as possible because I do not know the heart of the person flying it. It is definitely not a welcome home mat (and I grew up in Florida). Since it has different meaning for different people we’ll continue view it from our own perspectives and that’s okay. Thanks again for commenting. This blog was not meant to paint Trenton as racist as that was not the treatment we received.

          Edit: but it does say in several southern state‘s declaration for secession that the confederacy was all about slavery.

        2. Jeanette

          I work with black folks in Chattanooga who go to Trenton to visit often and who’s wife works in Trenton. Yes the people are curious but racist they are not. There are black folks in Trenton who love it there in sleepy little Trenton Ga. Yes you do need to read up on your history. Those are good harmless people in TRENTON. And btw, in the house right behind Randy’s… A black family.
          Two black girls and some Mexicans that work at Cracker Barrel (between Trenton and Hillbilly Willy’s)…. Well They are from Trenton and wouldn’t trade it for anything. A beauty shop you passed by in Trenton, right beside the big white church on the main road…. The owner is gay and everyone knows it. They moved up from Fla after visiting and falling in love with the people…. And btw, he plays a piano in a Trenton church. Although I enjoyed hearing this funny story, Looks to me like you assume too much. The people who own the horse ranch must not have gotten to know the people of Trenton themselves. A lot of women CHOOSE not to work due to daycare costs and the long drive to work but it’s worth the trade off to live in a small peaceful town. Years ago when Katrina hit La. There were many black and whites( mainly black) staying in the hotels In and around Trenton. Churches took them home cooked food and fed them for many days and bought new clothing for them. That’s what is wrong with this world. Someone assumes and spreads their view. Hillbilly Willy’s is a BBQ place in which it shows in your picture. A very super nice family who are not from that area but came and opened their restaurant there. Did you see all the Mexican restaurants??? Owned and operated by Mexicans who came here looking for opportunity. They’re like family to the people of Trenton. The hotel is owned by family from India, the nail place is owned by Chinese, the Chinese restaurant are Chinese people that live in Trenton. Glad you enjoyed your time at that farm. Btw there are two places to do yoga.

  7. Emily

    The rest are all your opinions so I respect that. My last word to put in is that I’ve never seen women in Trenton treated differently. There’s even a few “churches”with women preachers as well. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, but I’ve never seen it here. Or heard of a situation where a woman could not get a position of authority. So from Ive seen and heard, it’s not a problem here.

  8. Ames Lay

    Cheril,

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog about your visit to Trenton, GA. I happen to be a 34 year old white male that was mostly raised in Trenton. I loved reading about your experience here mostly because it is important to see the world from other’s perspective. Perspective…that’s what it’s all about right? When it comes down to it, your perspective is your reality, regardless of my belief (and obviously a few others from Trenton) that Trenton is mostly accepting of people with various ethnicities, skin colors, and sexual orientation. I feel that I am a little more progressive that others in Trenton though. I served in the Army for 9 years. I have lived overseas in Tawan. I have been the minority. I have experienced many other customs and cultures throughout the world. I think I have a little more perspective that some others.

    Let’s not get it twisted though. Here are the facts of some of the things that were debated. Census numbers do not lie. Roughly 3% of Trenton’s population of 2,000 is black. That is approximately 60 black people in Trenton. That is practically none. I certainly wouldn’t call it “plenty.” I imagine numbers for other ethnicities are close. As some have pointed out, there are a few Indian families that own business here. There are a number of Hispanic families that own and work in the Mexican restaurant, and the Chinese restaurant is owned and operated by a Chinese family. I’m sure it has happened, but it would be my guess that most Trentonians are accepting towards these minority families. I am friends with the Chinese family and love them a lot. I went to high school with two brothers that were black and they were among the most popular kids in school. I hope they love this town as much as I do, and I would be ashamed of anyone who has treated these contributing families with disrespect. That being said, Trenton is certainly not diverse. I can see how a black couple would feel out of place here.

    There are confederate flags all over this town and county. The Georgia flag comes from the original confederate flag. The Trenton flag came from the old Georgia flag, which was the confederate battle flag next to the Georgia seal. There is also a Confederate flag flying near the old court house at the town square. This flag is flying at the war memorial park which recognizes Dade County citizens that have died in the Civil War, WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dade county is very patriotic and has a lot of respect towards veterans. I think it is appropriate to fly the Confederate flag at a Civil War Memorial. I’m not black though. I couldn’t imagine how you felt traveling through a town where you see confederate flags on every corner.
    We can also address the meaning of the confederate flag. No one will ever convince you that the civil war was not fought over slavery. I don’t believe it was but I’m not going to try and convince you of this. What I can tell you though, is that Dade County was never reliant on slavery. In 1860, of the white population of approximately 2700 people who lived in Dade County, only 46 owned slaves. Only 2 people owned more than 30 slaves and no one owned more than 40. Dade County did not rely on slave labor, but heavily supported the confederate efforts during the Civil War. If they weren’t fighting to protect their slaves, then what were they fighting for? My point is that people in Trenton, for the most part, do not correlate the confederate flag with slavery. That does not mean others don’t though. It is a fact that when southern states started to incorporate the confederate flag into their state flags at the beginning of the civil rights movement, it clearly represented the “superiority” of the white race. It was used as a symbol for Jim Crow. I do not believe that the confederate flag has a place in the government. I do not, however, want to erase it from the history books. It was not a symbol of racism during the Civil War. I cannot say that about the use of the rebel flag in more recent times.

    By now I have said way more than I originally planned to. In conclusion, I was happy to read about my town from your perspective. I honestly don’t think a black person, even a black lesbian couple, has anything to fear about visiting Trenton. You will be met with hospitality, and if you know where to go you can see some of this country’s most beautiful scenery. I also know that you will be met with curious stares at every corner. There are not enough black people in this town to say it is normal to see them. Most of them are at the gas stations making a pit stop on their way to Chattanooga. I hope out little town can see more diversity in the future. There is definitely a stigma here whether true or not. Thank you for your blog. Next time you come to Trenton let me know and I’ll treat you to the Chinese buffet!

    1. cheril Post author

      Ames,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and respond and sorry for the delay in writing back! We had a bit of a website issue and are still recovering and restoring content. In any case, we did have a good time in Trenton. It’s a nice small town and the folks were definitely friendly. We just may revisit one day! 🙂

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