Discover the rich early history of the civil rights movement in Atlanta beginning with the abolishment of slavery, stories of brave African Americans who served their communities and built up the faith and resolve of the people. While many remember the history of the civil rights movement of the 1960s change really began decades before. Learn more!
August 16, 1862
Mary Coombs, first African-American owner in Altanta, sells her lot at Wheat Street (Auburn Avenue) and Peachtree for $500. She uses these funds to purchase her husband's freedom.
Imagine bartering your single-most prized possession for the soul of the one you love. Mary Coombs - Atlanta's first African-American property owner - sells her house and land to purchase her husband's freedom, just one month before the Emancipation Proclamation is announced. While a man's worth cannot be measured by monetary sums, Mary paid for her husband's life with 500 dollars.
October 25, 1865
The Georgia State Convention meeting in Atlanta abolishes slavery.
With a flourish of discarded suit jackets and heated debate, the Georgia State Convention abolishes slavery. This convention was called to Atlanta by the state's first presidential-appointed governor, James Johnson. The city of Atlanta was chosen for its resistance to the secession. During this meeting, the attendees also limited the governor to two terms and decreed all judges of all courts (excluding the superior and Supreme Court) be elected by the people.
January 9, 1871
Jefferson Franklin Long takes oath as first African-American congressman from Georgia. He holds office until 1894.
His heart pounding, Jefferson Franklin Long recites the Congressional Oath of Office. As Georgia's first African-American congressman, he will hold his office in the House of Representatives for 23 years. During his time as a slave, Long taught himself to read and write by setting copy for a Macon newspaper. By the end of the Civil War, he had distinguished himself among society, as a proprietor and public speaker, becoming a key member of the Republican Party In 1867.
Atlanta Baptist (Institute) Seminary, now Morehouse College, moves to Atlanta from Augusta, GA.
Founded by former slaves, the Atlanta Baptist Seminary relocates to Atlanta. Renaming itself in 1879, the Atlanta Baptist College grants its first baccalaureate degrees. The 14-acre campus contains remnants of the defensive positions held by Confederate soldiers during General Sherman's siege on Atlanta. It will see great success as the future home of Morehouse College - one of the nation's most prestigious African-American institutions of higher learning with notable alumni including Martin Luther King, Jr., Maynard Jackson, Spike Lee and Samuel Jackson.
August 18, 1895
25,000 visitors jam the opening of the Cotton States and International Exposition. Included in the festivities is a pavilion of African-Americans. Booker T. Washington makes his infamous Atlanta Compromise Speech.
Teeming masses marvel at the latest mechanical innovations and amusements during the Cotton States and International Exposition. In what has become present-day Piedmont Park, Booker T. Washington delivers his famous "Atlanta Compromise" speech. As a prominent black educator, Washington shocked the city when he declared his support of segregation, assuming all education and economic opportunities were equal. Assuaging concerns of revolt, Washington assured his 25,000 member audience that the African-American race is content to live socially separated, yet united "in all things essential to mutual progress."
Tour the MLK National Historic Site by GPS and enjoy history at your own pace.
Vicki L. Crawford, director of the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection, discusses the annual observances of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday and Black History Month