EXCLUSIVE: ‘Racist’ Confederate memorabilia store displaying Jim Crow-era relics, including ‘N**let repellant’ cotton balls and a KKK robe draped with a noose, faces calls to shut down after reopening following founder’s death
- WARNING: OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE AND IMAGES
- Wildman’s Civil War Surplus in Kennesaw, Georgia reopened its doors last week – six months after it temporarily shut following the death of founder Dent ‘Wildman’ Myers, 90
- The controversial Confederate memorabilia store had been a flashpoint for protests calling for its closure in 2020 amid the public outcry over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis
- DailyMail.com has learned the shop, which first opened in 1971, has sparked outrage and division among the local community once again after it was granted a new business license by the city council
- The move even prompted the resignation of city councilman James ‘Doc’ Eaton who believes the store ‘promotes bigotry, hate and racism
- DailyMail.com visited the store where visitors are confronted with shocking, offensive displays such as a box of cotton balls labeled ‘N**let Repellent’ and pieces of ‘N**let scalp’ alongside it
- Also on display mannequins dressed in Confederate Army uniforms and Ku Klux Klan robes and hoods with a noose draped over it
- New business owner Marjorie Lyon, 59, who worked at the shop with Myers for 35 years, refused to directly say if the store was racist, saying ‘everybody is entitled to their opinions’
- She told DailyMail.com: ‘Everything in this shop represents a moment in time. It cannot hurt you unless you allow it to hurt you’
Some members of a small Georgia city have branded it a ‘racist’ blight on their downtown community.
Others insist it is merely cataloging a period of American history that should be understood and not erased.
One thing is for certain, however, and it that the reopening of a controversial Confederate memorabilia store – that displays explicitly disturbing racist ‘souvenirs’ – is once more dividing the city of Kennesaw, 26 miles from Atlanta.
Wildman’s Civil War Surplus opened its doors again on Main Street on June 14, nearly five months after it shut following the death of founder Dent ‘Wildman’ Myers at the age of 90.
The business had been a flashpoint for protests and rallies calling for its closure in 2020 amid the national outcry over the murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis.
The store, which first opened in 1971, is now embroiled in controversy once again after being granted a new business license by the city council.
The move led to the protest resignation of councilman James ‘Doc’ Eaton who told DailyMail.com: ‘It promotes bigotry, hate and racism.
‘They say they are representing history? I say they are representing white supremacy history. It has no place in modern America.’
Additionally, opponents of the store allege it is driving commercial interest away from the struggling Main Street area of Kennesaw, population 32,000, because of its notoriety.
Meanwhile new business owner Marjorie Lyon, 59, insisted ‘Everything in this shop represents a moment in time. It cannot hurt you unless you allow it to hurt you.’
Stepping deep inside, visitors are confronted with shocking offensive displays of Jim Crow-era memorabilia, such as a box of cotton balls with a small handwritten sign reading: ‘N**let Repellent’.
Next to it, there are pieces of hair from an African-American child labeled, ‘N**let Scalp’, and behind both is a sign with arrows pointing to the displays saying ‘What a Hoot.’
Elsewhere, black dolls are bundled in a pile with one white figure in the middle.
The handwritten sign in capital letters says: ‘Token Honky in the N**let Patch.’ There is no additional explanation or context.
None of these particular items are for sale and they are located in an area at the back of the store referred to as its ‘museum.’ The business’s newly-granted license, however, is only for a shop.
Also on display in the museum section are garments from the Civil War era such as a Confederate Army uniforms and a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood that Lyon says is from the 1920s.
The robe is displayed on a mannequin with a noose draped around it and holds a large printed sign around its neck reading: ‘To my friends, acquaintances and enemies – you have made me what I am. You will be compensated accordingly. Probatum!’
The last word ominously meaning something is tried, tested or proved.
While the garments are a well-known symbol of white supremacy and racially-motivated violence, Lyon has a much more cavalier view, and dismissed concerns telling DailyMail.com: ‘He’s just been over here minding his own business. He hasn’t strung nobody up.
‘We have had many different Klan robes over the years. They are all in collections now.’
VIDEO: Wildman’s Civil War Surplus store faces reopening backlash https://mol.im/a/10938047#v-3937034991072202122 via @MailOnline
Also on display in the museum section are garments from the Civil War era such as a Confederate Army uniforms next to a World War II Nazi uniform
Many other black dolls and racist collectables are around other more tangible exhibits such as Civil War swords, weaponry, ammunition and clothing.
There’s also an election campaign poster for Alabama’s segregationist governor George Wallace.
In the store at the front, Confederate Flags – an abhorrent reminder to African Americans of the country’s dark past – are on sale amid books and other collectibles. Pictures depicting neo-Nazis are also on display.
Lyon, who relaunched the business after working there with Myers for 35 years, refused to directly answer if the store was racist.
‘I am not going to say what a person is or is not,’ she told DailyMail.com. ‘I learned a long time ago that people will think what they want to think or believe what they want to believe.
‘Some people have decided that this shop is a promotion of hate and bigotry and racism. You do not have control over how people feel or react.
‘I am not worried about people’s opinions because everybody is entitled to their opinions. Just because your opinion is different doesn’t make yours any right or wrong.’
She continued: ‘Everything in this shop represents a moment in time. It cannot hurt you unless you allow it to hurt you.
‘Nowadays everything is offensive. The flags, the shop, anything and everything. If it doesn’t agree with that person’s thought process you are racist and evil, and that is just not reality.
‘Everything is educational. How you apply it is on you. Our past is what has gotten all of us here.’
Former councilman Eaton’s daughter Dr. Cris Eaton Welsh is so disturbed by the reopening she is moving her chiropractor business from the Main Street to an area out of the city in protest.
‘That store is a store that promotes nothing but bigotry and hate and division,’ she told DailyMail.com.
‘It is our main street, so it’s on a strip where families walk and shop. So people inadvertently walk in there and don’t know what they’re walking into.
‘There is Ku Klux Klan memorabilia all over the place. There are dolls and other items that depict African Americans in a very negative light.’
Eaton Welsh, who was a councilwoman for six years, took to Facebook this week to apologize for not doing enough to oppose the business for 20 years – sparking online backlash from some section of the community.
‘I needed to apologize because I have been sitting there expecting somebody else to handle this and hoping it would just go away,’ she explained.
‘Literally we hoped that when Dent Myers passed away the store would just go away. And it didn’t. And I should have done more and I should have done more sooner.’
Eaton Welsh admitted that taking a stand had made her the subject of ‘vitriol’ but says people in the city support her view, ‘but are too afraid to say something’.
‘So I wrote a letter saying I owe this community an apology,’ she said. ‘And it turned into, “get out of here, we can’t wait to see you go”, “our community will be better if you’re not here”, “this isn’t racism, this is history and you’ve got a problem – if you don’t like it go away”.’
Eaton Welsh, who has lived in Kennesaw for 30 years, said: ‘Twenty two years ago there were 11 businesses on the block between mine and that store.
‘Now, after we leave, there will be two left. We have had three sets of developers in that time and the biggest issue is they can’t find tenants that will put their businesses next to Wildman’s.
‘When I was on the city council and working on economic development, we’d have developers who’d say ‘give me a call when they are gone. We’re not spending a penny here if they are here’.’
Her father backed up that statement, saying: ‘There was a car dealership, there was a restaurant, there was a beauty parlor and several other businesses.
‘They left the area because of that store. I know because of my position on the council.
‘I thought when Dent died we were going to be able to shut that business down. When they renewed the business license I said, screw it, I’m resigning.
‘I don’t know what happens now. I know there are several other member of the council who feel as I do. I’m not sure why they’re not saying anything publicly.’
Wildman’s customers on the day we visited defended it staunchly, while claiming they did not defend Confederate policies.
Mark Pentacost, 58, from Atlanta said his ancestors fought in the Civil War and were from Athens, Georgia and with the 16th Georgia Infantry.
He said he came to the store in the 1990s and Myers helped him learn about his ancestors who had participated in the conflict.
‘I do not condone the Confederate government’s policies at the time of the Civil War,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘I am here to honor the people that laid down their lives for the States that they were called on to defend.
‘They were not called on to defend against slavery they were called on by their government to defend their States.
‘I don’t condone those polices and never condoned slavery. I have never supported slavery or any polices to suppress any persons of color I do it to honor my relatives that lost their lives fighting in the Civil War.’