SMYRNA, Ga. — For half a century, celebrities, tourists and local residents flocked to Aunt Fanny’s Cabin, a restaurant known as much for its Southern menu as for its depiction of plantation life and racist imagery, where white patrons were served by young Black waiters with yoke-like wooden menu boards hung around their necks.
Aunt Fanny herself — Fanny Williams, a Black cook who worked for the white family who owned the business — was once described in a newspaper article as “a famous colored mammy.”
The restaurant shut down 30 years ago, but the little white cabin itself, easily overlooked along Atlanta Road in the small suburban city of Smyrna, has become the center of an unlikely debate about how a Southern community can move on from its painful past without forgetting its history in the process.
tearing the building down, arguing that it had fallen into such disrepair that fixing it would be too costly. The place had been a source of civic discomfort for years, but among those pushing hardest to save it were members of Smyrna’s Black community, who argued that demolishing the cabin would erase a critical part of local Black history. Last week, a decision to preserve Aunt Fanny’s Cabin but move it to a nearby farm gave supporters a chance to wrestle with how best to preserve the complicated story of the restaurant — and of Ms. Williams herself.
Jackie Gleason ate at Aunt Fanny’s. So did Clark Gable.
Some former employees recall the institution with nothing but disgust.