During #BlackHistoryMonth, we are highlighting some of the places, people and events that form the rich history of our neighborhoods — English Avenue, Vine City, Ashview Heights and Atlanta University Center.
1910s: Herman Perry begins developing what will become Ashview Heights
With the Atlanta City Street Railway having arrived in the area in an effort to spur suburban development in the city, Herman Perry saw an opportunity for investment in the area adjacent to the Atlanta University Center. At the time, the Sweet Auburn area, long favored by black residents, was surrounded by white neighborhoods, which posed difficulties for the community as segregation practices prevented black residents from expanding into nearby neighborhoods. Perry built houses and made mortgages to new buyers in a time when mortgages were difficult to attain. The placement of the community also opened the doors for Black communities to expand West into largely vacant areas.
1924: Booker T. Washington School opens
In one of the first examples of comprehensive community planning for African Americans in the nation, Herman Perry deeded land to the city for Atlanta’s first black high school, Booker T. Washington. The school had similar features to Atlanta’s white high schools with a combined academic and vocational curriculum. Because Washington was the only black high school in the area, it quickly became overcrowded. The school was built for 2,000 students, and within ten years, almost 6,000 students were attending Washington High School. Highly qualified teachers, some of which came over from the private high schools in the AUC, taught classes of over fifty students often without sufficient books and materials. For this reason, Washington teachers maintained a close relationship with AUC schools and often got the resources they needed through these close partnerships. The school became renowned for the education of dozens of prominent black Americans, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Mattiwilda Dobbs, an opera singer, and State Senator Leroy Johnson, the first black State Senator after the period of Reconstruction.
1958: Dr. Asa G. Yancey becomes the first African-American member of the medical faculty at Emory University
Born and raised in Ashview Heights, Asa G. Yancey led the way for Black medical professionals in Atlanta. Yancey was both the first African-American doctor at Grady Memorial Hospital and Emory University Hospital. He spent years on the staffs of both hospitals, not leaving until his retirement in 1989, and is credited for the development of the Cardiology Center at Emory alongside fellow doctors. In 1972, Yancey was appointed medical director of Grady Memorial Hospital and associate dean at Emory University Medical School. He was appointed full Professor of Surgery at Emory University Medical School in 1975.
1960: Ashview Heights hits peak population
Having become a preferred living area for Black families, Ashview Heights hit its highest population count in 1960 with 4,500 residents. The gradual decline of resources and support in the Westside neighborhoods due to neglect would take its toll over the years, however. Today, only 2,700 people live in the community.