South Atlanta

Houses

Originally known as Brownsville, the community of Historic South Atlanta started as some of the first land giving to freed slaves after the Civil War.  The Freedman’s Bureau located land on the edge of the new city of Atlanta, just outside of it’s boundaries and divided from the heart of the city by a large ridge.

What is now South Atlanta quickly became home to a significant African-American population in the late 1800’s with several prominent establishments of the African-American community calling our community home: Clark College, Gammon Seminary, and the Carver Theater.  In 1906, during the race riot that tore apart Downtown, South Atlanta became a safe haven for African-Americans fleeing the violence and persecution going on in the streets around Five Points.  As the colleges grew and became more established, so did the neighborhood and by the 30’s and 40’s it was a healthy and thriving community.

panthers baseball

In the 1950’s, the winds of change began to blow through Atlanta.  The Civil Rights movement was in full swing, white flight (and middle class flight) had begun to move middle class families out of the city, public housing projects were on the rise, and several African-American universities were talking about combining their resources in the West End neighborhood of Atlanta.  All of these events led to a perfect storm that saw South Atlanta decline in its prominence on the Atlanta scene.  In the early 50’s, Gammon Seminary and Clark College left the neighborhood for the Atlanta University Center – taking with them the professors and other professionals that called South Atlanta home.  When the schools left, the land was sold to the city of Atlanta which built Carver Homes – one of the largest housing projects in the nation.

With the loss of professionals and a large influx of government housing, the neighborhood quickly began to change.   The next 40 years would bear witness to the decline of a once proud and vibrant community.  When the General Motors plant 1 mile away closed up shop in the 1980’s, the neighborhood lost its final employment center and almost all of its hope of having enough jobs to support the community.

Thankfully for South Atlanta, a group of seniors born in the era when the neighborhood was vibrant stuck around in the community through the hard times.  They remembered a day when they, as kids, roamed the streets freely and knew all of their neighbors.  Now as seniors, they wanted this generation to have what they had – a healthy thriving neighborhood that was safe to raise a family in.

Since 2001, FCS and Community Economic Development have been working together with those seniors and new people who have moved into our community to restore it to the health and vibrancy that it once stood for.  Within our community is the power to heal itself and restore itself to prominence.  The power of our community has never been stronger.  Yet, the effects of 50 years of economic de-investment could take another 50 years to overturn if the neighborhood was left on its own to rebound.

Our streets (named for professors from the colleges as seen in the following picture) are still filled with tow lots, recycling plants, vacant lots, and shuttered businesses.  It will not be until we as a neighborhood can turn the tide of business in our community that we will truly return to the prominence that it once had.

SATL

Together with our community, that is exactly what FCS Community Economic Development is striving to accomplish- the return of positive business activity to South Atlanta.  Without its businesses, a neighborhood cannot truly thrive, but with it – a neighborhood can and will begin to lift itself out of decades of neglect.

 

South Atlanta is a beautiful place to live once you look past the tough exterior.  Hidden within our streets are people who have a love for their neighbors, their community, and for God, and want to see what’s best for our community once again.  Together, we’ve made significant strides in the past 12 years, but there is still a long way to go to return to the South Atlanta of the 1930’s and 40’s.  We know that one day we will get there and we hope that you will be a part of us getting there!