The Real Atlanta Black History:
The Breakdown of Atlanta Neighborhoods
The story of Atlanta black history and the urban Atlanta neighborhoods provides the truth about a city that is currently influencing black cultures and societies across the country.
A city that probably has the most southern history has seen the most changes within its community due to the process of gentrification in the urban Atlanta neighborhoods.
Divided into Zones 1 through 6, as well as communities outside the city limits in DeKalb and Clayton counties, this short version of the Atlanta black history story breaks down the story of each side of the Atlanta neighborhoods.
Atlanta Neighborhoods: WestSide Atlanta – Zone 1
With most of WestSide Atlanta being in the Zone 1 section, this area has a number of legendary Atlanta neighborhoods.
WestSide Atlanta consists of Vine City, a community key to Atlanta black history, or the old Techwood Homes, Atlanta’s first housing project to be built and demolished.
Soon after the Techwood Homes were built the city’s housing authority built the Eagan Homes and the University Homes for black families in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Other former housing complexes of WestSide Atlanta were Bowen Homes, Bankhead Courts, Herndon Homes, Hollywood Courts, and the Perry Homes.
Atlanta black history during the 1960s consisted of the civil rights movement and justice for better living in the community.
Areas like Dixie Hills and Vine City were in the heart of the WestSide Atlanta movement with protest and a fight for righteous living.
Also around the 1960s, WestSide Atlanta communities were expanding from the area of Vine City into Atlanta neighborhoods like Adamsville and Mosley Park.
Even though many had a hard time and had to overcome certain obstacles to gain housing and property, WestSide Atlanta would eventually become a majority black community.
Some of the WestSide Atlanta original black communities before the 1950s, were Rockdale, which was replaced by the Perry Homes, Tanyard Bottom and the Flats, a small areas near Techwood Drive, the West End and communities around MLK Drive from Vine City to West Lake.
The Streets of WestSide Atlanta
As the civil rights movement faded away, a new era began to take over the streets of the Atlanta neighborhoods on the West Side.
The West Side would later become known for the Diablos, the Miami Boys in the Eagan Homes that came from Miami after Hurricane Andrew, people of the Herndon Homes and Perry Homes, as well as neighborhoods and blocks along the Bankhead Highway.
Starting in the late 1990s, the city’s original idea of the housing projects had changed as the start of the demolishing of the Atlanta housing projects, starting with the Techwood Homes as the 1996 Olympics came into the city.
Years later, most of the Atlanta housing projects were torn down or rebuilt, together with the renaming of the major streets on the West Side like Bankhead becoming the Donald Lee Hollowell Highway or Simpson Road becoming Joseph Boone.
Atlanta Ghetto Story: Zone 3
With parts of the South Side and Southwest Atlanta being in Zone 3, some of Atlanta’s oldest communities are in this large section of the Atlanta ghetto.
Zone 3 is made up of Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, Summerhill, Pittsburgh or Jack City, Dill Ave, Oakland City, Lakewood and Cleveland Avenue.
Due to the close location of downtown, the three neighborhoods of Summerhill, Mechanicsville and Peoplestown would experience urban renewal and destruction of their communities beginning in the 1960s.
Zone 3 was also home to numerous of former Atlanta housing projects like Jonesboro North and South, Poole Creek, Gilbert Gardens, Lelia Valley, the Capitol Homes (Da Cap) and the Carver Homes.
These housing projects have been either rebuilt into smaller mixed-income apartment complexes or completely demolished.
Atlanta Neighborhoods: SouthSide Atlanta – Zone 4
In the heart of the SWAT (SouthWest Atlanta), Zone 4 communities of SouthSide Atlanta are based around Cascade and Campbellton.
Other sections of SouthSide Atlanta are the cities of East Point and College Park that are in Fulton County, but are not actually part of Zone 4.
While SouthSide Atlanta has more of a rural and country feel with homes having more land of property compared to neighborhoods that are close to the city’s center, the area is the same as any other section of Atlanta.
From Ben Hill to Washington Road of East Point to College Park’s Godby Road, SouthSide Atlanta or Zone 4 is in the heart of the city.
Between the 1950s and 1970s, most black families began to move into the area of these communities of SouthSide Atlanta.
By the 1990s and 2000s, the area began to somewhat decline and transform, with many of the businesses and shopping areas closing.
Eventually, SouthSide Atlanta communities became demolished or closed like Washington Circle, South Town, Creekside and Stanton Road apartments, and not to forget the old Kimberly Courts or Sylvan Circle.
Atlanta Neighborhoods: EastSide Atlanta – Zone 6 / 4th Ward
With gentrification in the city and the population of EastSide Atlanta increasing, Dekalb County is becoming one of Atlanta’s largest areas by having communities as far as Lithonia.
EastSide Atlanta is mostly in DeKalb County with only neighborhoods like Reynoldstown, Edgewood or Kirkwood being in Atlanta’s Zone 6.
Places like Reynoldstown, which was originally founded by freed slaves, was a thriving community until the 1960s.
Kirkwood, originally an all-white community until the late 1950s, and Edgewood, a neighborhood built for African-Americans, are EastSide Atlanta oldest areas.
Today, these communities of EastSide Atlanta are becoming more of mixed-income communities due to redeveloping and gentrification.
The Old 4th Ward was one of Atlanta’s most active communities and is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city.
Located around the old historic Auburn Street business district, the mecca of Atlanta black history, the Old Fourth Ward was also the alleged birthplace of Martin Luther King.
Generations later, the streets of the 4th Ward became known for sections like Pink City, U-Rescue Villa, Parkway, Irwin St and Wheat St.
Today, Atlanta’s 4th Ward is becoming different from what it was in the previous years with the gentrification that is occurring in this neighborhood filled with Atlanta black history.
One of the biggest parts of EastSide Atlanta is Decatur, a small Georgia city with the black population around the streets of Columbia Drive, McAfee Road, Glenwood or Candler Road.
Other EastSide Atlanta communities like East Atlanta was one of the first areas to racially integrated during the civil right era of the 1960s, but slowly changed as the 1980s East Atlanta was predominantly African-American.
*Note: All information is provided through people of the community, outside sources, and research. Some information might not be current and/or 100% correct.
Atlanta Black History Sources:
Tuck, Stephen. “Beyond Atlanta: The Struggle for Racial Equality in Georgia, 1940-1980”. The University of Georgia Press. 2001.
Bayor, Ronald. “Race and the Shaping of Twentieth-Century Atlanta”. The University of North Carolina Press. 1996
McComiskey, Bruce and Ryan, Cynthia. “City Comp: Identities, Spaces, Practices”. State University of New York Press. 2003.
Mason, Herman. “Black Atlanta in the Roaring Twenties”. Arcadia Publishing. 1997.
Keating, Dennis and Krumholz, Norman. “Rebuilding Urban Neighborhoods: Achievements, Opportunities, and Limits”. Sage Publications. 1999.