The 1960s: Urban Renewal in the Civil Rights Era

Buttermilk Bottom Neighborhood
Ground Breaking Ceremony for Atlanta Stadium
Vine City Civil Rights Demonstration

As Atlanta entered the 1960s, urban renewal projects in the city increased in both number and scope. As in the 1950s, the city justified programs of slum clearance by promoting the idea that Black neighborhoods were dangerous and should be replaced with either new infrastructure or public housing. Mayor Ivan Allen Jr., elected in 1961, initiated a series of ambitious urban renewal proposals. One of his most significant projects was the construction of the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium south of downtown , which contributed to the destruction of large parts of the Washington-Rawson neighborhood. Both nationally and locally, civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. highlighted the negative effects of urban renewal on Black communities, such as displacement and poor living conditions in segregated public housing. While Atlanta public schools were integrated in 1961, public housing was not integrated until the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968. In response to the demolition of Black neighborhoods in the 1950s and 1960s, Reverend William Holmes Borders helped create the nation’s first federally subsidized, church-operated public housing project with the opening of Wheat Street Gardens.