ATHENS — Residents of the Hancock neighborhood are up in arms against the upcoming move of a University of Georgia fraternity into their midst.

But this is not just a town vs. gown conflict, though residents in this predominantly black neighborhood fear an increase in property taxes, bad behavior and noise. At issue is this fraternity’s Southern pride, which becomes visible in the streets when Kappa Alpha brothers hold the Old South Parade, some sporting Confederate-style outfits.

This year, trying to reach out to its future neighbors, the fraternity canceled the parade and vowed to find other ways to celebrate its founders’ day. Fraternity founders in 1865 at Virginia’s Washington College said they based their ideals of honor and chivalry on Robert E. Lee, the Confederate leader who served as president of that university.

But some neighborhood activists are still worried about a fraternity that displayed the Confederate flag outside its house until university administrators and black students asked them not to in 2000.

“There’s some boiling of the blood,” said Bertha Troutman-Rambeau. “You have to know the history. They believe the South will rise again. It will not.”

Kappa Alpha bought the six-acre property in November for $2.7 million after the university asked five fraternities to relocate from the edge of campus. It plans to start building a three-story, 18-bedroom mansion in the fall.

“They’re going to give ’tore up from the floor up’ a new name,” said the Rev. Ben Rivers, who’s the pastor at the city’s oldest black church and is leading efforts to keep the fraternity away.

Members of other Kappa Alpha chapters were suspended from their schools between 1992 and 2001 for using Confederate and racist imagery, including an incident at Emory University in Atlanta in 1998 when some fraternity members wore offensive makeup to parties.

But there have been no incidents in the last five years. Mark Cross, adviser for the Athens chapter, said the neighborhood hostility has caught them by surprise.

“Whether it was out of naivete, we didn’t anticipate an outcry against us being a Southern fraternity,” he said. “It was eye-opening to hear the pain.”


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