Sketch of the original school house off Martin Street.

Built in 1869, Summerhill School was once the oldest operating school in Atlanta. Though the title would eventually be taken from Summerhill to be shared with three other White schools in 1872 when the Atlanta Public School System purchased the school (for whatever reason the three years it operated before its purchase no longer mattered). It served an almost entirely African-American community in the South Atlanta neighborhood of Summerhill. While parts of Summerhill would be mixed throughout history the school was entirely for the Black children in the communinty.1 Though a segregated, all Black school, it would not be until after 1887 when Black educators and administrators would be able to work at the school and serve their community as well. This was attributed to the continued success of the Black university system the had developed in Atlanta after the Civil War by such people as W.E.B. de Bois and Booker T. Washington and their many contemporaries.2

As the neighborhood grew and the opportunity for the children of Summerhill to receive an education grew with it was becoming obvious that expansion was going to be necessary. In the 1920’s the city commissioned roughly $40,000 to demolish and rebuild a new school on the existing lot due to increased overcrowding. The new school would still be amicably referred to as the Summerhill school even though it would be renamed the E. P. Johnson school after the successful and renowned pastor from the community, Reverend Edwin Posey Johnson.3

Sandborn map from 1899 showing the old Summerhill School to the West.

As seen above this section of the Summerhill neighborhood was still developing and much of the surrounding lots were either undeveloped or de facto parks. But as seen in the image below just more than 30 years later, in 1932, much of the empty spaces surrounding the school. Which at this time had been rebuilt as the E.P. Johnson school.

Sandborn map from 1932 shows the increased development of the Summerhill neighborhood.

Above shows the neighborhood as it is now. The school would eventually move into disuse and would eventually be demolished by in the 1980’s. Where, as stated above, the neighborhood would build over the old lot beginning in the late 1980’s but mostly during the 1990’s with the boom associated with the Olympics.

  1. KGuestH, “Eternally Forgotten Atlanta Public Schools – Pt. 3 – The First schools for African-American students”,Atlanta’s Past Revisited, https://atlantaspastrevisited.com/2017/05/18/eternally-forgotten-atlanta-public-schools-pt-3-the-first-schools-for-african-american-students/ ↩︎
  2. “COLORED TEACHERS TO HAVE: A CHANCE TO APPLY FOR TEACHERS POSITIONS IN THE SUMMER HILL SCHOOL.” The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Jun 18, 1887. https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/colored-teachers-have/docview/495095259/se-2. ↩︎
  3. KGuestH, “Eternally Forgotten Atlanta Public Schools – Pt. 3 – The First schools for African-American students”,Atlanta’s Past Revisited, https://atlantaspastrevisited.com/2017/05/18/eternally-forgotten-atlanta-public-schools-pt-3-the-first-schools-for-african-american-students/ ↩︎