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My mother read “Gone with the Wind” in late 1951 during her final months of pregnancy. She was so thrilled she gave birth to a daughter that she named me Tara.

I was the only person I knew with such a name, and during middle childhood years, peers and classmates asked me what it meant. I hadn’t a clue, so I would just say, “My mother read Gone with the Wind around the time I was born. It’s a book about a family who lived on a plantation named Tara.”

I got tired of being asked about it and so one day I asked my mother if I could change my name to Cathy or Betsy. She said it was too much work and it would require a lawyer. My uncle was a lawyer so with my birth certificate in hand, I took the city bus and marched into his office. He was amiable and explained that my parents had to sign documents for me to change my name.

Thinking about how they would respond, I quickly dropped the idea.

In later childhood, I was able to say Tara has different meanings in different cultures. Being Irish, Tara means “hill” or a “raised place.” It’s derived from the Hill of Tara, located in County Meath, Ireland; seat of the High Kings of Ireland and became popular in the book and movie “Gone with the Wind.”

In early adolescence, my mother asked if I wanted to see the movie “Gone with the Wind.”

“Yes,” I said because I liked popcorn and Charleston Chews. The theatre walls had posters with men in army uniforms holding muskets, a woman wearing a dress with ruffles, and another woman wearing a hooped skirt, and I hoped to wear similar dresses one day.

My hopes and desires were quickly forgotten about once the film started. I have memories of feeling queasy while watching African Americans pick cotton and sweating profusely in the cotton fields on Tara, and I didn’t particularly appreciate watching men in battle. It was apparent I lacked in-depth knowledge of the Civil War. I didn’t understand why people wanted to kill people. It all seemed senseless to me, and it still does.

In the late 1970s, upon completing a training program with a global hotel company, I was transferred to the Holy City of Charleston, SC. Tara was not a popular name in Charleston, but Charlestonians were familiar with the meaning. It appeared they were impressed my Yankee parents had come up with the name Tara and accepted me into their world.

A tour of the Exchange Building was on my bucket list. I can recall the pictures and paintings of slaves standing in front of the building with clunky, heavy chains wrapped around their wrists and sweat pouring out of their skin while white aristocratic plantation owners were in bidding wars over the slaves. It was the social norm for a white southerner to use the “N” word. I was shocked.

The Exchange Building served as a military headquarters during the American Revolution, a social venue where the Charleston elite entertained the likes of George Washington, and the location where the constitution was ratified in May 1788.

While touring the historic building, visions of “Gone with the Wind” surfaced, most notably the slaves picking cotton on Tara and serving dinner to the O’Hara’s in their Grande Plantation home on Tara.

Four decades after my career tenure in Charleston, on the evening of June 17, 2015, a mass shooter took the lives of nine African American people at a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. The massacre at a historic Black church deeply shook a nation already jaded by frequent gun violence and heralded the return of violent white nationalism in America.

In the mid-1980s and after five years in Charleston, I transferred to Richmond, VA, to work on a restoration project of the Jefferson Hotel. The main staircase in the Jefferson Hotel is a replica of the staircase in Tara’s plantation home in the movie “Gone with the Wind.” What a coincidence, I thought.

I remember reading articles written by a group of individuals who were a small part of Richmond’s white community. They wanted the Confederate Statues on Richmond’s Monument Avenue, the most fashionable addresses, to be removed for decades. The group was unable to impact the City’s Confederate mindset.

In the early 1990s I transferred to New York City and worked out of a corporate office. It felt good to be back in the Northeast where no one asked me what my name meant!

Four and half decades have passed since my tenure in Richmond, VA. On May 25, 2020, George Floyd’s killing triggered an outcry for change in Richmond. Within four days of the killing, on May 29, 2020, Richmond was the first City in the southeast to see protests and rioting. Within six weeks, the city removed four of the six Confederate statues from fashionable Monument

Avenue. A year later, In September 2021, the City Council voted to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate General. Still standing is Richmond’s tennis star, Arthur Ashe, and the commonwealth of Virginia has extracted 71 confederate symbols, such as cannons, since May 2020.

Most symbols were delivered to Confederate cemeteries or accepted by museums. Private property owners, local historical societies, and museums have purchased a handful of symbols tied to the statues. Some remain in storage. In this case the confederate mindset has shifted to a more positive position.

I’m approaching my septuagenarian decade and my sixth sense tells me my name, Tara, was a gift given to me at birth. Yes, the ruffles and romance of “Gone with the Wind” connected me with a period in history, the Civil War, which embedded scars into our society. The downside of these scars is that they are being punctured and are creating more inequality. The upside of the punctured scars continues to give me an in-depth understanding of equality versus inequality. In other words, the wisdom to know the difference, and most probably because my mother named me Tara. Thanks mom and today I really like my name!

Tara Shannon writes from Dorset.


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