The Sweet Auburn Historic District in Atlanta: Heritage Tourism, Urban Regeneration, and the Civil Rights Movement

Part of the The Urban Book Series book series (UBS)


This contribution focuses on the role of heritage tourism as an economic (re)development tool by examining the development of the Sweet Auburn a Historic District located west of downtown in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1976, the site received the National Historic Landmark designation. In 1992, the National Trust for Historic Preservation identified the area as one of the most threatened historic places in the United States. The significance of Sweet Auburn derives from its position as a center of heritage for the city’s African American population as well as its contributions to the civil rights movement. The Big Bethel A.M.E. Church, the Wheat Street Baptist Church, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, and the Ebenezer Baptist Church are all located within its boundaries. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church and his nearby boyhood home is part of the Martin Luther King, Jr National Historic Park (designated in 2018). Many African American businesses and organizations were established along Auburn Avenue in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including the first African American owned daily newspaper, the Atlanta Daily World (founded in 1928). The construction of the massive Downtown Connector (Interstate I-75/85) through Atlanta’s urban core in the 1950s and early part of the 1960s divided the Sweet Auburn District. Disinvestment and urban decline followed, further accelerating social problems including population loss, housing decay, crime, and unemployment. The Historic District Development Corporation, an organization founded in 1980, has focused on revitalizing and preserving the area. Since then, the promotion of the historic designation, tourist attractions, and commercial opportunities, helped create a vibrant locale with eateries, bars, outdoor and indoor markets, museums, exhibits, and festivals. The recent addition of a stop by the Atlanta Streetcar has substantially increased the number of visitors, making this one of the most sought-after neighborhoods of the city.


Historic preservation Civil rights movement Urban revitalization Atlanta Sweet Auburn district 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Georgia College & State UniversityMilledgevilleUSA

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