Back in 1870 to 1910, Collins Street was historic for its home to Atlanta’s very own “red-light district”. Where I am standing in the picture was once a place lined with Madame-led brothels and businesses that were run by many people of different races and culture backgrounds. I often walk past and through this street without even thinking that this walkway would have its own special history. This location is interesting to me since its right in the middle of GSU and people easily overlook such a historical location.

A selfie of me standing in the middle of Collins Street.

In an area that was considered a “melting pot” of different racial backgrounds, racial segregation still prevailed in this small area. Despite the area being known for multiculturism, segregation still had a strong grip on the people of Collins Street. Sadly, property values within Collins Street were low, primarily due to the concentration of Black individuals living on Collins Street. The evaluation of the property there shined a light on the ongoing discrimination that perpetuated the social injustice within the community.

The brothels along Collins Street were looked down upon by the city of Atlanta. However, the only way that prostitution was able to continue in the city was as long as it stayed exclusively along Collins Street. Right behind Collins Street was the railroad, which helped with the boom of business. Even though the brothels along Collins Street was not embraced by everyone, city directories still considered the brothels an established business. In regard to the women working in the brothels, they were all different races. But according to census back in the late 1800s, madams and prostitutes were deemed white along with mixed race women too.1 Collins Street prevailed for 40 years. But its downfall was the Courtland Street viaduct bridge. The bridge ran right above Collins Street. Young schoolboys and girls would take the bridge route to school, which overlooked the Collins Street.2 In 1910 due to the worries of tainting the youth, Collins Street brothels were closed. In the mid 1900s, Georgia State expanded its campus via the urban renewal plan, taking over Collins Street.

  1. Dr. Mandy Swygart-Hobaugh, “Historic Harlots of Old Atlanta. “Historic Harlots of Old Atlanta (arcgis.com) (accessed February 22, 2024) ↩︎
  2. Harvey K. Newman, “Decatur Street: Atlanta’s African American Paradise Lost.” Atlanta History, vol 64 (Summer 2000), 5-20 ↩︎