A decade ago, grassroots activists in The Bahamas triumphed over U.S. developers and the ruling political party when they won a five-year battle to preserve an historic slave plantation site doomed for destruction to make way for a $400 million gated community. A rare victory for local residents over foreign encroachment, Clifton Heritage National Park memorializes the sacred ground where ancestors of the Bahamian people arrived on slave ships from Africa.
But a battle over the credit for its preservation threatens to rewrite history, pitting a foreign outlier against the Bahamian people, including me.
In 2013, the Audubon Society singled out New York hedge fund billionaire Louis Bacon for “leading the campaign” to save the slave site. This gratuitous act of credit-taking by Mr. Bacon for something he hadn’t done incensed and outraged many of the Bahamians who rose up against the government in the late 1990s in a perilous act of civil disobedience that could have landed us all in jail–or worse.
Louis Bacon never demonstrated in the streets. His name never appeared in newspaper articles that chronicled the battle. He didn’t participate in the trenches, let alone lead the charge. That was the conclusion of award-winning Bahamian journalist Nicki Kelly: “Having been among the activists fighting to save Clifton, and having written numerous columns on the subject, I cannot recall Mr. Bacon’s name ever surfacing as a leader of the Save Clifton Coalition,” she wrote a year ago in the Bahamian periodical, The Punch. “His claim denigrates the work of those Bahamians…who were under continuous attack” because of their leadership.
It’s not only the disingenuous acceptance of the Audubon Award that has galled leaders of the Clifton movement, but what we viewed as his racist remarks in accepting the honor. Mr. Bacon told the audience at his New York gala that he reached for his Holy Book for answers about why he was chosen for the award. As a Southerner, he said, he was referring to Gone with the Wind.
Bahamians who viewed the speech on YouTube were horrified. Gone with the Wind portrays the Ku Klux Klan with esteem and African Americans with derision. In his closing remarks, Mr. Bacon referred fondly to Rhett Butler, the central character in Gone with the Wind, as his Southern cousin and mentioned the proud restoration of Orton Plantation, his ancestral home in Wilmington, N.C.
Many of us have since learned the distressing truth about Orton Plantation. It was built by Mr. Bacon’s forefather Roger (“King”) Moore, who at the time of his death in 1751 still owned more than 250 slaves. “King” Moore’s great grandson was Colonel Lieutenant Roger T. Moore, a former officer of the Confederate Army and founder and commander of the Wilmington division of the Ku Klux Klan. Mr. Bacon is Colonel Moore’s great grandson, and named his hedge fund Moore Capital Management, as well as his Moore Charitable Foundation that received the Audubon Award, for his clan.
Historical archives provide a chilling account of the slaughter of dozens of African Americans as a tactic to shut down an African American newspaper during the 1898 Riots of Wilmington that describe Colonel Roger Moore as a leader of the massacre. His vital role is confirmed in a letter written by Mr. Bacon’s great grandmother, Eugenia Moore, wife of Colonel Moore and mother of Mr. Bacon’s namesake, historian Louis T. Moore.
It is for these reasons that protests against Mr. Bacon in The Bahamas have not subsided. Many of us who are still alive to recount the historic Clifton fight have rallied to retell our story and rekindle the indomitable spirit of that earlier crusade to spread the truth about Louis Bacon through news conferences, demonstrations, web pages, TV interviews and videos.
The glory of the battle of Clifton, which bonded all walks of Bahamian people, no matter their racial, cultural or economic backgrounds, is not only that it honors the sacrifice of our ancestors, but benefits our unborn generations in making The Bahamas and the world a better place in spite of our differences.
(Taken from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/keod-smith/)