For more than 40 years, February has been designated as Black History Month. The federally recognized, nationwide celebration honors the achievements of African American figures, and the city of Atlanta is brimming with heritage and culture.
Aside from the typical museums and centers throughout the metro area, there are historic markers and various establishments that tell the stories of some of the nation’s most iconic heroes and events. Interested in learning more about the people and places that helped shape American history? Here are a few lesser-known places to visit to soak up some knowledge.
The Atlanta University Center
In 1929, Spelman College, Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University and Morris Brown College united as the Atlanta University Center. The consortium of historically Black colleges, which now includes Morehouse School of Medicine, has since become a symbol of educational excellence with notable alumni, including Julian Bond, James Weldon Johnson, Pearl Cleage and Spike Lee. If you take a stroll through the campuses, you’ll find various signs that briefly detail the rich history of the famous institutions.
Atlanta University Center Consortium, 156 Mildred St., Atlanta. 404-523-5148, aucenter.edu.
Want a quick lesson and a bite to eat? You’ll experience both at Paschal’s. The eatery, founded by brothers James and Robert Paschal, was a common meeting place for key civil rights leaders and strategists, including Martin Luther King Jr. Today, the walls of the soul food spot, now on Northside Drive, are lined with black and white photos of influential people of the past and present, and the website includes a comprehensive timeline of Paschal’s history.
11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Monday, closed Tuesday, 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Paschal’s Restaurant, 180 Northside Drive SW, Atlanta. 404-525-2023, paschalsatlanta.com.
True Colors Theater Company
Founded by Tony-winning Broadway director Kenny Leon, the nonprofit theater said its "mission is to celebrate the rich tradition of black storytelling while giving voice to bold artists of all cultures." True Colors at Southwest Arts Center, 915 New Hope Road, Atlanta. 404-532-1901, truecolorstheatre.org.
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church
More than a century ago, in 1911, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church became the first African American Catholic Church in Atlanta thanks to founder Ignatius Lissner. A few decades later during the Civil Rights Movement, Lourdes parishioners participated in protest activities alongside the Old Fourth Ward community. The church, in what is now the Martin Luther King Jr. Landmark District, still operates today and welcomes people of all races.
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 25 Blvd. NE, Atlanta. 404-522-6776, lourdesatlanta.org.
The land for this cemetery was purchased back in 1866 by nine former slaves who grew tired of the mistreatment received at segregated graveyards. The establishment, which sometimes offers walking tours, consists of more than 100 acres and more than 70,000 people are buried there, including prominent musicians, athletes and activists. Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Benjamin Mays were buried at South-View before being moved to the Martin Luther King Center and Morehouse College, respectively.
South-View Cemetery, 1990 Jonesboro Road SE, Atlanta. 404-622-5393, southviewcemetery.com.
There are a few markers and statues throughout Piedmont Park. During a walk or a bike ride through the area, you’ll find signs about the Cotton States Exposition of 1895 and the famous speech Booker T. Washington delivered during the event. You can even take a guided tour to hear all about the historic occasion.
6 a.m. - 11 p.m. Piedmont Park, 400 Park Dr. NE, Atlanta. 404-875-7275, piedmontpark.org.
Head to Roswell to explore the Smith Plantation. The home, built by slaves in 1845, was preserved by three generations of the Smith family. It’s now a museum, where visitors can take a peek at the two-story farmhouse, which includes servants quarters, a barn, a smokehouse and a cookhouse.
The plantation is temporarily closed to fix a water leak, but you can check the website for prices and times when it reopens. Smith Plantation, 935 Alpharetta St., Roswell. 770-641-3978, roswellgov.com.