Feb 14, 2021 • 5M

Black Leaders of ATL, Part II

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Part 2 of my 21-Heart Salute…

In honor of the Black History Month I created a new tour that encourages people to learn about twenty-one exemplary individuals who made a lasting impression on ATL. This interactive tour was modeled after a similar one I created last year called, Women of Distinction: 20 Women Who Made a Lasting Impression on Atlanta. Both are self-guided tours that you can take online or in person. The full experience consists of four elements:

  1. A simple Matching Quiz that will establish a baseline for you. Please take this before and after you have experienced the tour. Share with your friends and family to see how well they know these leaders!

  2. A two-part podcast & newsletter that provides biographical information about each leader as well as tips on how and where to connect with them. In some cases, the connecting point is a street named in their honor that you can walk, bike or drive on. In others, it’s a building or statue that you can visit.

  3. An interactive map that identifies the locations of the various streets and monuments that were named to recognize their contributions to the City.

  4. A Tour Log that you can use to keep track of the places you visit.

As you make these connections you will develop a greater appreciation for the impact these exemplars had on Atlanta. You will see and feel the city differently as you drive along the streets that celebrate their lives. In so doing, you will honor their memories and the sacrifices they made to make ATL and the world a better place for all of us.

Stay curious and keep exploring!

Steve Saenz, ATLsherpa
February 2021 | Atlanta, GA

The 21-gun salute is the highest honor rendered [click on hearts to learn more]

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was a social activist and Baptist minister who played a key role in the American civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968. King sought equality and human rights for African Americans, the economically disadvantaged and all victims of injustice through peaceful protest. He was the driving force behind watershed events such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the 1963 March on Washington, which helped bring about such landmark legislation as the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and is remembered each year on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a U.S. federal holiday since 1986.

Some of the landmarks at the MLK Nat’l Historical Park in Old Fourth Ward. Photos by ATLsherpa

Where to Connect

John Lewis

John Robert Lewis (February 21, 1940 – July 17, 2020) was an American politician, statesman, and civil rights activist and leader who served in the United States House of Representatives for Georgia's 5th congressional district from 1987 until his death in 2020. He was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1963 to 1966.

Lewis was one of the "Big Six" leaders of groups who organized the 1963 March on Washington. He fulfilled many key roles in the civil rights movement and its actions to end legalized racial segregation in the United States. In 1965, Lewis led the first of three Selma to Montgomery marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. In an incident which became known as Bloody Sunday, state troopers and police attacked the marchers, including Lewis.

A member of the Democratic Party, Lewis was first elected to Congress in 1986 and served 17 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. The district he represented included most of Atlanta. Due to his length of service, he became the dean of the Georgia congressional delegation. While in the House, Lewis was one of the leaders of the Democratic Party, serving from 1991 as a Chief Deputy Whip and from 2003 as a Senior Chief Deputy Whip. John Lewis received many honorary degrees and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom (shown in photo below).

Where to Connect

Joseph Lowery, John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Jesse Hill, Jr and Benjamin E. Mays

Joseph Lowery

Joseph Echols Lowery (October 6, 1921 – March 27, 2020) was an American minister in the United Methodist Church and leader in the civil rights movement. He founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr. and others, serving as its vice president, later chairman of the board, and from 1977 to 1997 its president. Lowery participated in most of the major activities of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, and continued his civil rights work into the 21st century. In 2009, Lowery received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Barack Obama (shown in photo above). He was known as the "Dean of the Civil Rights Movement."

Where to Connect

Benjamin Mays

Benjamin Elijah Mays (August 1, 1894 – March 28, 1984) was an American Baptist minister and American rights leader who is credited with laying the intellectual foundations of the American civil rights movement. Mays taught and mentored many influential activists, including Martin Luther King Jr, Julian Bond, Maynard Jackson, and Donn Clendenon, among others. His rhetoric and intellectual pursuits focused on the spread of nonviolence and civil resistance in the mold of Mahatma Gandhi. The peak of his public influence coincided with his nearly three-decade tenure as the sixth president of Morehouse College, a historically black institution of higher learning, in Atlanta.

Where to Connect

  • Benjamin E. Mays Drive — this 3-mile road runs from Cascade Road west to Fairburn Road, just west of the Chattahoochee River (formerly Sewell Road)

  • Benjamin E. Mays Senior High School — formerly Douthwest High School, renamed in Rev Mays’ honor in 1981 (located at 3450 Benjamin E Mays Dr SW)

James & Robert Paschal’s iconic restaurant in Castleberry Hill

James & Robert Paschal

Robert (1909-1997) and James Paschal (1920-2008) were the founders of the iconic Paschal’s Restaurant in Atlanta. Located in the Castleberry Hill Arts District, Paschal's has a rich history that dates back to 1947 when the Paschal brothers opened their first location at 831 West Hunter Street (now Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd). The brothers decided 'Fried Chicken' would be the specialty of the house, and with that mandate, Robert created his 'secret recipe'.

Paschal's became the “meeting place” for some of the most notable entertainers, politicians, and business people, including Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, Andrew Young, Maynard Jackson, Vice President Al Gore, and Dr. Martin Luther King just to name a few. In 2002, James Paschal and Herman J. Russell would join forces to create a 21st century version of Paschal's Restaurant located in the Castleberry Hill area.

Where to Connect

  • Paschal’s Restaurant — iconic restaurant in Castleberry Hill the neighborhood of Atlanta (180 Northside Dr SW, Atlanta, GA 30313)

Roslyn Pope

Dr. Roslyn Pope (still living) made history in 1960 when, as a student at Spelman College, she wrote “An Appeal for Human Rights." The document published on March 9, 1960, announced the formation of the Atlanta Student Movement, whose campaign of civil disobedience broke a suffocating stalemate over civil rights in Atlanta and hastened the end of racist Jim Crow laws and policies across the region.

The “Appeal” quickly became a civil rights manifesto after it appeared as a full-page advertisement in Atlanta’s newspapers. It was denounced by Georgia’s segregationist Gov. Ernest Vandiver but celebrated around the country, reprinted for free in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times and entered into the Congressional Record.

The idea was to explain why black students would defy their parents, professors and police by illegally occupying whites-only spaces. It decried the racist laws governing education, jobs, housing, voting, hospitals, theaters, restaurants, and law enforcement. It called on “all people of good will to assert themselves and abolish these injustices.”

Where to Connect

Dr. Roslyn Pope, W.E.B. DuBois & Julian Bond

Booker T. Washington

Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856 – November 14, 1915) was an American educator, author, orator, and adviser to multiple presidents of the United States. Between 1890 and 1915, Washington was the dominant leader in the African American community and of the contemporary black elite. Washington was from the last generation of black American leaders born into slavery and became the leading voice of the former slaves and their descendants. They were newly oppressed in the South by disenfranchisement and the Jim Crow discriminatory laws enacted in the post-Reconstruction Southern states in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

On September 18, 1895, the African American educator and leader Booker T. Washington delivered his famous "Atlanta Compromise" speech at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Piedmont Park. Considered the definitive statement of what Washington termed the "accommodationist" strategy of Black response to southern racial tensions, it is widely regarded as one of the most significant speeches in American history.

Where to Connect

  • Historical Marker in Piedmont Park — see tour map for exact location

  • Booker T. Washington Senior High School — first public high school for African-Americans in the state of Georgia and the Atlanta Public Schools system. Designed by Atlanta-born architect Eugene C. Wachendorff, the building incorporates medieval and Byzantine elements, including the dramatic main entrance with five arches in two tiers. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (located at 45 Whitehouse Dr SW, Atlanta, GA 30314 in the Ashview Heights neighborhood of Atlanta)

  • Booker T. Washington Monument — In 1927, the only exact replica of the Booker T. Washington monument at Tuskegee University in Alabama was erected at the school's entrance. The statue, called "Booker T. Washington Lifting the Veil of Ignorance," is a replica of the original bronze at the Tuskegee Institute by sculptor Charles Keck. The inscription reads: "He lifted the veil of ignorance from his people and pointed the way to progress through education and industry."

  • Atlanta Compromise Speech — Georgia Encyclopedia

This native Parisian was known as the “Human Highlight Reel”

Domonique Wilkins

Jacques Dominique Wilkins (born January 12, 1960) is an American former professional basketball player. Wilkins was a nine-time NBA All-Star and is widely viewed as one of the best dunkers in NBA history, earning the nickname "the Human Highlight Reel." In 2006, Wilkins was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

In addition to his eleven seasons with the Hawks, Wilkins had short stints with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Boston Celtics, Panathinaikos Athens, Fortitudo Bologna, the San Antonio Spurs, and the Orlando Magic before he retired in 1999.

Where to Connect

  • Domonique Wilkins Statue at State Farm Arena — Led by a collaboration of master sculptor Brian Hanlon, Atlanta businessman Thomas W. Dortch, Jr., and the Atlanta Hawks organization, this deserved and awe-inspiring statue was unveiled in March 2015 (see tour map for exact location)

  • Domonique Wilkins Way — the segment of Centennial Olympic Park Drive between Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Marietta Street was designated for Wilkins

  • Dominique Wilkins to be honored with street designation at Philips Arena (Saporta Report)

Hosea Williams

Hosea Lorenzo Williams (January 5, 1926 – November 16, 2000) was an American civil rights leader, activist, ordained minister, businessman, philanthropist, scientist, and politician. He may be best known as a trusted member of fellow famed civil rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King Jr.'s inner circle.

Under the banner of their flagship organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, King depended on Williams to organize and stir masses of people into nonviolent direct action in myriad protest campaigns they waged against racial, political, economic, and social injustice. King alternately referred to Williams, his chief field lieutenant, as his "bull in a china closet" and his "Castro."

Vowing to continue King's work for the poor, Williams is well known in his own right as the founding president of one of the largest social services organizations in North America, Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless. His famous motto was "Unbought and Unbossed."

Where to Connect

This This former mayor was instrumental in getting the 1996 Olympic Games to be held in ATL

Andrew Young

Andrew Jackson Young Jr. (born March 12, 1932) is an American politician, diplomat, and activist. Beginning his career as a pastor, Young was an early leader in the civil rights movement, serving as executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and a close confidant to Martin Luther King Jr. Young later became active in politics, serving as a U.S. Congressman from Georgia, United States Ambassador to the United Nations in the Carter Administration, and 55th Mayor of Atlanta. Since leaving office, Young has founded or served in many organizations working on issues of public policy and political lobbying.

Where to Connect

The 21-gun salute is the highest honor rendered [click on hearts to learn more]

Explore More

  1. Martin Luther King, Jr (Nobel Prize Organization(

  2. John Lewis, Towering Figure of Civil Rights Era, Dies at 80 (New York Times)

  3. Joseph Lowery, civil rights leader, dies at 98 (CNN)

  4. The Life of Benjamin Mays: Civil Rights Change Agent (Greenville, SC Index-Journal)

  5. For Atlanta, Paschal’s Serves as a Monument to History & Hope (Resy)

  6. Roslyn Pope: his Civil Rights icon penned a pivotal document while attending Spelman College (ATLsherpa)

  7. Rev. Hosea L. Williams: A leader in the national movement for the rights of poor people, and the founder of Hosea Feed The Hungry since 1971 (Hosea Helps)

  8. Legends profile: Dominique Wilkins (NBA)

  9. How ‘Atlanta Compromise’ divided black America and cemented Washington’s legacy (AJC)

  10. Andrew Young: Civil Rights Ambassador (Academy of Achievement)


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