Saving Sunset on the Westside

The Westside has a rich legacy of historic homes and heartfelt stories on every block, and 220 Sunset Avenue in Vine City is a prime example. Once home to Reverend Maynard Jackson, Sr., and his family, this home was once part of a thriving middle class Black neighborhood, but years of neglect have left it in desperate need of repair.

Thanks to Westside Future Fund, the five-unit building, purchased from The King Center in January 2020, will be revitalized in the coming months, and it will be added to the National Register of Historic Places. Learn more about the famous family who once called this place home.

Built in 1949, Reverend Maynard Jackson Sr, the family patriarch, chose this location to build his family’s home because of the neighborhood’s reputation as a nice middle class Black neighborhood.

The Jackson family lived in apartment three on the second floor and he used the third floor apartment as his office. The two first floor units were rented out to generate additional income.

Jackson Sr. was the preacher at Friendship Baptist Church from the mid-1940s, and he quickly became a community leader and advocated for increased political participation of Black families and Black children living in poverty – and his family followed suit.

History Makers

Just a few years after his passing in 1953, his wife, Dr. Irene Dobbs Jackson, daughter of John Wesley Dobbs, made history.

In 1959, Dr. Jackson returned from Paris where she had been using her skills as a Spelman College French professor to enjoy the nation’s history, including reading literature at the French public libraries.

While in France, she was able to access any public library she wanted, but when she got back to Atlanta, she faced the harsh reality that the local library system remained segregated.

Dr. Jackson was determined to be the difference, so she decided to apply for a library card at the main branch. Within just a few days, her application was approved, and Dr. Irene Jackson was the first Black person in the city’s history to be issued a public library card.

Model Leadership

Watching his father and mother’s leadership in the Black community, Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr. inherited a passion for the fight for equality.

From his earliest days on Sunset Avenue into his adulthood, Maynard was a champion for the Black community. After years of community leadership, he was elected as Atlanta’s first Black mayor in 1973.

The Jackson family would eventually sell their home in 1969, but its historical significance grew. In 1970, the home was purchased by Southern Rural Action Incorporated and it was used to house visiting scholars who came to see The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, an organization begun by Coretta Scott King, wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Preserving the Past

To ensure that the bountiful history of the property is preserved, Westside Future Fund is moving forward with extensive restoration work and will have the property added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Once completed, the reimagined property will serve as affordable housing for researchers and graduate students who are affiliated with the Atlanta University Center, and it will stand as a landmark for years to come.