During the early 1900s, Auburn Avenue, coined as Sweet Auburn by John Wesley Dobbs, was the richest African American neighborhood in the world. With the presence of Morris Brown College, Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University, and Spelman College; major historically black colleges all located in Atlanta, African Americans swarmed to attend them. Atlanta quickly became the place to go in the segregated south if you wanted to be a successful African American. It was a place where a Black American could achieve the American Dream. As a result, Auburn Avenue gained so many African American owned businesses like the Citizens’ Trust Co., Atlanta Life Insurance Company, Milton & Yates Drug Store, the Atlanta Daily World, the Royal Peacock, and so many more.
The Sweet Auburn District was booming until the construction of the Downtown Connector or Interstate 75/85 that split the neighborhood in half. As Ebony Magazine, an African American magazine, put it, “…Like business streets in much of urban Black America, Auburn Avenue began losing its luster some years ago…Interstate 75/85, further isolating it from downtown. And as segregation ended, some Blacks abandoned it for the glitzier areas of Peachtree Street and the West Side. Once-thriving businesses closed and were boarded up. The street began looking frayed at the edges.”
Today, the Sweet Auburn District is still struggling to recover because of gentrification. The Downtown Connector, a product of gentrification, still acts as splitting barrier. Over time, other businesses and institutions like Georgia State University and apartment complexes have taken over buildings of that area. If this gentrification continues, Auburn Avenue can possible become a part of Georgia State University’s college campus. This doesn’t seem too bad but the loss of some of the African American historical and cultural elements that still exist on Auburn Avenue seem pretty horrifying to Black Atlanta. It would be as if it never existed or its presence would become unnoticed and less appreciated. Sweet Auburn is a highly important part of Black Atlanta. If the important part is forgotten, then what will happen to the rest?