The Sweet Auburn Historic District is a mile and half stretch along Auburn Avenue in downtown Atlanta. At the turn of the century,... more » this area was one of the wealthiest African American streets in the world. During the 1960s it was the center of the civil rights movement and home to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. After a period of decline, Sweet Auburn is experiencing a resurrection with the Sweet Auburn Curb Market open Monday-Saturday, the Sweet Auburn Heritage Festival held the first weekend in October and the MLK National Historic site.
It’s hard to imagine the Atlanta where Martin Luther King Jr. was born and raised. Atlanta, and much of the South, was segregated. When "Gone with the Wind" premiered at the Loew’s Grand Theater in 1939, King sang with his church choir at the opening, but blacks, even Hattie McDaniel, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Mammy in the film, were not allowed into the all-white theater.
When President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, it prohibited discrimination in voting, education, and the use of public facilities. Yet much of Atlanta remained segregated into the early 1970s. To understand the magnitude of what Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement accomplished, it’s important to place yourself in the time period.
There is no better place to do so than the Sweet Auburn District of Atlanta, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1976.
The six-square block area was the home base for Atlanta’s wealthy and educated African American community from the turn of the century through the 1960s. Many of the city’s first black-owned businesses were along Auburn Avenue, as well as influential churches and nightlife. The Royal Peacock Club hosted acts like Ray Charles, James Brown and Aretha Franklin. It was here that Martin Luther King grew up and where he began the Civil Rights movement that catalyzed change and racial equality. less «