- Advertisement -
Home Our History Buying Black How The Government Tried To Kill Atlanta's Black Business District

How The Government Tried To Kill Atlanta’s Black Business District

- Advertisement -

Photo: Stan Kaady

Auburn Avenue in Atlanta was once known as “the richest Negro street in the world.” The phrase was coined by John Wesley Dobbs, a civic and political leader known as the unofficial “mayor” of Auburn Avenue. Dobbs once said, “Get the vote and the dollar and you’ll walk in Jerusalem just like John.” The dollar was definitely being gotten in the Auburn Avenue corridor, where several banks were founded, including Citizens Trust Bank. Auburn Avenue was also home to several insurance companies or societies, including Alonzo Herndon’s Atlanta Life Insurance Company. Restaurants, theater and vibrant civic institutions thrived on Auburn Avenue, where the King family home is located. It thrived until the government drove through its destruction — literally.

Auburn Avenue
Stan Kaady

In the early 1950s the city of Atlanta began construction on a system of expressways. That effort was put on steroids by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. The legislation was championed by Dwight Eisenhower and authorized the construction of the interstates. The Federal government paid 90 percent of the costs, the states 10. One couldn’t imagine putting an interstate through the middle of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Auburn Avenue, however, was a very Black neighborhood and thus a different matter, altogether. When planners needed to choose a route for Interstates 75 and 85 to travel, naturally they opted to bulldoze Auburn Avenue. Today the I-75/85 Downtown Connector literally bisects Auburn Avenue.

Auburn Avenue, however, is not unique. Black communities were decimated in Montgomery and Detroit. In Miami construction of I-95 wiped out 10,000 homes and a Black business district. Interstate 40 in Nashville destroyed 80 percent of the city’s Black businesses and 650 homes. The story of razing and disrupting Black communities with interstates was not the exception but in fact the rule, all over the country. The history books often say that Auburn Avenue declined because of integration. We are often told that Blacks with means simply opted to leave for the greener pastures of white neighborhoods, when the opportunity presented itself. Certainly there is some truth to that but it ignores the reality of how a major interstate displaced businesses while mitigating the neighborhood’s quality of life and desirability. The choice, for many who left, was made for them.

Aerial view of Detroit during the urban renewal era
WALTER P. REUTHER LIBRARY

Little can be done about the businesses, homes and communal institutions that were lost to make way for the interstates. What can be done, however, is to allow those memories to fuel us today. We can be fueled to fight for the businesses we have. We can be fueled to strengthen the banks we still have. We can be fueled to fight for the communities we still have and make sure they are never destroyed again.

- Advertisement -
D'Juan Hopewell
I care about Black Power. Period. Currently working on creating jobs and funding new startups on the South Side of Chicago and writing here and there at HopewellThought.com. Follow me @HopewellThought.
- Advertisement -

Stay Connected

333,662FansLike
732,979FollowersFollow
220,589FollowersFollow
2,458FollowersFollow
2,988SubscribersSubscribe

Must Read

One Of The Hottest Stocks In America Is A Black Bank

Carver Bancorp, Inc. is the holding company for Carver Federal Savings Bank, a federally chartered stock savings bank. The bank's stock has been soaring...
- Advertisement -

Kamala Harris Stands On The Shoulders Of Shirley Chisholm

Kamala Harris was announced as Joe Biden's VP pick on Tuesday, prompting a slew of "first" articles and posts on social media....

Black Woman Chef Launches National Meal Prep Delivery Service

She Makes Delicious is challenging everything we believe about Black women entrepreneurs and Black businesses. Traditionally, Black entrepreneurs have serviced a local,...

Black Lives Matter Murals Being Vandalized, Black People Shouldn’t Care

Black Lives Matter paintings in Fayetteville, North Carolina and New York City were recently vandalized. A mural of George Floyd was defaced...

Related News

One Of The Hottest Stocks In America Is A Black Bank

Carver Bancorp, Inc. is the holding company for Carver Federal Savings Bank, a federally chartered stock savings bank. The bank's stock has been soaring...

Kamala Harris Stands On The Shoulders Of Shirley Chisholm

Kamala Harris was announced as Joe Biden's VP pick on Tuesday, prompting a slew of "first" articles and posts on social media....

Black Woman Chef Launches National Meal Prep Delivery Service

She Makes Delicious is challenging everything we believe about Black women entrepreneurs and Black businesses. Traditionally, Black entrepreneurs have serviced a local,...

Black Lives Matter Murals Being Vandalized, Black People Shouldn’t Care

Black Lives Matter paintings in Fayetteville, North Carolina and New York City were recently vandalized. A mural of George Floyd was defaced...

Black Organization Buying Homes To Boost Black Homeownership

Urban League of Greater Madison President Ruben Anthony Jr. stands outside the organization's offices before announcing a $5 million program to help...
- Advertisement -

11 COMMENTS

  1. Once again this is a beautifully written piece of black history. However it leaves me asking the following question: “How do we keep this from happening again?” We know who the enemy is and how they’ve managed to succeed in dismantling everything we as a people have built for ourselves. So again, “How do we keep this from happening again?”

  2. A black business district in New Orleans on N. Claiborne Ave. was decimated to build I-10. That stretch, which had huge oak trees and green space, was the site for many events and festivals, including Mardi Gras for the black community. All the majestic oaks and plush grass have been replaced with concrete.

  3. Great article!! please write more pieces like this to educate. MANY people do not know of the backstory of their districts.

    • Still confused. Grew up in Atlanta. Auburn Ave is Downtown so where would you expect a Major City to have a Major Highway?? Through Downtown. Auburn Ave seems to Still be able to Exist with Homes & Businesses if Blacks really wanted it to. Blacks seem to be Slowly rebuilding there but i believe Whites are Now easily owning there also.

  4. Harlem is much different now that white people are here now. Its different feel now. Those black vibes of greatness of Harlem is slipping away. Don’t get wrong there are blk businesses little by little a making they way here and there. But we are going do for self and depending on white people or government or others races for hand outs in out black communities. Let do for our ourselves not for other people.

  5. I grew up outside of Chicago now living in Memphis, Tn. I would love to connect with Black organizations to help build up our communities. Gentrification is happening near the old Sears building

  6. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin I-94 replaced Bronzeville, a thriving African American community in the 1960’s. Entertainer use to come there from the 1920’s until they destroyed the community. They always find creative ways to keep us at bay. That is why I try my best to patronize black businesses no matter where I go. I only go to others if there are no black people to buy from.

  7. Great information about our story. I’ve heard this but the article placed everything in order. The truth is, If WE build it they will come, to tear it down! Maybe we need to look at other places or countries to build.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here