the histories of our streets

Georgia State University students map Atlanta's past

Author: Kalysa Hoffman

Prohibition and Prejudice in Atlanta

A. Abelsky Saloon in Downtown Atlanta

Prohibition in Georgia has a long history; starting as early as the 1830s, temperance communities had become prevalent. Because of Atlanta’s explosive growth and development post-Civil War, saloons and other entertainment establishments were widespread throughout the city, particularly on Decatur Street. With an ever-increasing number of saloons, public drunkenness became commonplace, and the societal costs of drinking became more apparent. Saloons not only provided space for interracial mingling and intoxication, but they were also a symbol of the growing Black middle-class. These factors only incited tension among the races, further pushed to the brink by inflammatory publications that ultimately lead to a massacre of the Black community. The Riot of 1906 was the catalyst for Georgia’s statewide prohibition act, which sought to further disenfranchise minorities rather than address the societal issues at hand.

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Red Light Café

My favorite place is by far the Red Light Café in Midtown Atlanta’s Amsterdam Walk. It’s a listening room for Americana, Bluegrass, Blues, Jazz, and Rock as well as a comedy and burlesque venue. The building itself is super small, providing a very intimate experience where you feel up close and personal with the musicians/performers. It also has a small food menu and bar for patrons.

Pre-COVID photo of me at the Café

I was introduced to this place in the jazz history course I took a few years ago; we were required to watch live jazz shows and do a write up on the stylization and performers. Every Wednesday night, the Gordon Vernick Quartet performs along with any musicians in the audience that wish to join; Dr. Vernick also happens to be an Associate Professor of Music and Coordinator of Jazz Studies at Georgia State University (and the author of the textbook we were using). It truly is a wonderful experience to watch his group perform as he is highly interactive with the audience in between songs.

If you enjoy live music and performances, I highly recommend going to check out Red Light Café!

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