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5 Atlanta streets named after civil rights activists

Credit: Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Credit: Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

You drive up and down them every day. Have you ever wondered who the people are that Atlanta's streets are named after? Some of the city's most traveled thoroughfares are named after prominent civil rights icons.

John Lewis  Freedom Parkway – Georgia Congressman John Lewis was among key activists and leaders in the civil rights movement, taking part in the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins, the 1961 Freedom Rides, the 1963 March on Washington and the Bloody Sunday march in 1965, where he was beaten in the skull by a state trooper in Selma, Alabama. He  was elected to Atlanta City Council in 1981 and Congress in 1987. The thoroughfare renamed in 2018 for Lewis runs west from the Downtown Connector, crosses Boulevard and then splits off to Ponce de Leon and Moreland avenues. The road also leads to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Center. The city of Atlanta also renamed East Freedom Parkway to East John Lewis Freedom Parkway.

Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway – A lawyer who practiced in Atlanta starting in 1952, Donald Lee Hollowell is best known for successfully suing the University of Georgia to allow racial integration on campus. He also served alongside co-consul Horace Ward to secure Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s release from Georgia State Prison in 1962. In 1966 Hollowell was appointed as the regional director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, making him the first black regional director of a major federal agency.

Find the Street: Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway is the renamed Bankhead Highway. It runs east to west in Southwest Atlanta from Northside Drive to 285.

Hamilton E. Holmes Drive – Donald Lee Hollowell's successful lawsuit against the University of Georgia allowed Hamilton E. Holmes and Charlayne Hunter-Gault to be the first black students at the school. Holmes went on to become the first black student at the Emory University School of Medicine, earning his M.D. in 1967. Later, Holmes became an associate professor of orthopedics then associate dean of the school.

Find the Street: Hamilton E. Holmes Drive runs north to south in Southwest Atlanta from Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway to I-20.

Ivan Allen, Jr. Boulevard – Twice elected as the 52nd mayor of Atlanta, Ivan Allen Jr. is regarded as providing strong leadership in the city during the Civil Rights movement. He also was known as a founding member of The Commerce Club and the only white Southern politician who testified in support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 before Congress. Additionally, Allen Jr. served in World War II.

Find the Street: Ivan Allen, Jr. Boulevard runs east to west through downtown Atlanta from the Downtown Connector to Northside Drive, connecting traffic from the joined together interstate across the top of Centennial Olympic Park to the Georgia World Congress Center.

Jesse Hill, Jr. Drive – Jesse Hill, Jr. was a man who had a lot of firsts in his life. He was the first black president of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the first black member of the Georgia Board of Regents, and the first black member of the Board of Directors for Rich's Department Store. He founded The Atlanta Inquirer, was a confidant to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and served as the CEO of Atlanta Life Insurance Company. During his lifetime, he was also the chairman of the board of directors for the Martin Luther King Jr. Center.

Find the Street: Jesse Hill, Jr. Drive runs north to south in Downtown Atlanta from John Wesley Dobbs Avenue to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive between Piedmont Avenue and the Downtown Connector.

John Wesley Dobbs Avenue – Frequently called the "unofficial Mayor of Auburn Avenue," John Wesley Dobbs started his political activism in the 1930s registering 10,000 black voters as a means of overcoming disenfranchisement. Dobbs founded the Atlanta Civic and Political League, and in 1946 co-founded the Atlanta Negro Voters League. A champion of his neighborhood, Dobbs successfully lobbied Atlanta's mayor, William Hartsfield, to integrate the Atlanta Police Department and install lighting along Auburn Avenue.

Dobbs' former home is located at 540 John Wesley Dobbs Avenue. When you approach the home from the sidewalk, you can see Dobbs' name carved into the walkway.

Find the Street: John Wesley Dobbs Avenue runs East to West in Atlanta's Sweet Auburn and Downtown neighborhoods from Randolph Street to Irwin Street then continuing to west to Peachtree Street.

--Becca J.G. Godwin also contributed to this article.