Selfie taken in front of the modern front entrance to Herndon's barber shop.

Alonzo Herndon was Atlanta’s first African American millionaire and was an affluent businessman during the late 1800’s into the early 1900’s. He owned and operated multiple businesses including his barber shop: the Crystal Palace located at 66 Peachtree Street in the city’s business district.

I chose this location for my journal entry because I have walked past this shop front for many years, starting in 2009. However, it was not until recently that I began to think more deeply about the buildings and the people that once visited and lived inside of them.

When I was first exposed to the story of Alonzo Herndon, his business and affluence, did my fascination with this property and Herndon grow.

Born into slavery Herndon was the son of his mother’s enslaver. After the Civil war was over he moved away with his mother and siblings where they would make a living sharecropping. Herndon had a knack for business and earned secondary income as a peddler of small goods including peanuts and axel grease.1 After saving enough money Herndon would eventually move to Atlanta where he would become business partners with other affluent black Atlantans. It was those partnerships that led Herndon to have the opportunity to open up his Crystal Palace.

Unfortunately, Herndon’s business was a victim of the 1906 riot and eventual massacre. He was fortunate enough to have been home that night however, his business was targeted and vandalized. After the massacre and destruction of the Crystal Palace, Herndon decided to stay and continue to build his business enterprise. While the torching of his barbershop was a major setback, in regards to race relations, Herndon was more concerned about the success of his insurance company and other ventures.

It is important to remember however, that despite his ability to survive and grow, Herndon’s existence was never easily or mutually accepted. By existence, it is meant: a black man in the early 1900’s who is successful, socially rejected, yet economically accepted.

  1. Henderson, Alexa. “Alonzo Herndon.” New Georgia Encyclopedia, last modified Jul 14, 2020. (Accessed Feb 20, 2024.) ↩︎