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Courtesy Library of Congress

Scene 12

Shotgun Houses

The shotgun house was a popular house type among middle and low-income workers between the 1870s and 1920s. The one-story house type features a narrow, rectangular form, is one room wide, and two or more rooms deep. There is no hallway, and the doors generally line up front to back. For economic reasons, most shotgun houses were made of wood, although some were also constructed of brick or stone. Similarly, most were very plain with little to no elaborate architectural details. A porch extending across the front of the house was a common feature of the house type, but many examples were also built without porches. Variations of the shotgun house include the "double-barrel" shotgun house which consists of two shotgun houses that share a central wall; and the "camelback" shotgun house that features a second floor at the rear of the house. The origin of the shotgun house is widely debated among architectural historians: some argue that the house type can be traced from Africa and the West Indies and later made its way to the American south by Haitian immigrants and African-Americans who migrated to southern cities after the Civil War. Others contend that shotgun houses were simply designed to accommodate the narrow land lots of growing southern cities. While the majority of shotgun houses in Georgia are clustered together in cities and towns, individual examples can also be found in rural areas throughout the state.

Black-Owned Businesses

During the last few decades of the nineteenth century, efforts at implementing a variety of social, economic, and political reforms in American society were undertaken by numerous individuals and agencies concerned with promoting social justice, equality, and public safety. While many of these reforms were undertaken by white, middle-class Americans, a number of African-Americans participated in reform efforts as well. One of the results of their efforts was the development of many black-owned businesses and institutions in communities across the country. One of the most significant examples of black entrepreneurship during this time was found along Auburn Avenue in Atlanta. More African-American financial institutions, educators, business professionals, entertainers, and politicians were found along this 1 ½-mile street than any other place in the southern United States. It was here that Alonzo Herndon, a former slave who became Atlanta's first black millionaire, founded the Atlanta Life Insurance Company in 1905. A second black insurance company was established along Auburn Avenue by Henry Perry six years later. The Citizens Trust Bank was also created at this time to provide credit to black homeowners and entrepreneurs who were underserved by the city's white lending institutions. In 1928, the nation's first black-owned daily newspaper, the Atlanta Daily World, made its headquarters on Auburn Avenue. Between the 1890s and the 1940s, more than one-hundred black-owned businesses were established along Auburn Avenue ranging from financial institutions like the ones mentioned above, to mom-and-pop restaurants and widely popular nightclubs such as the Royal Peacock. Civic organizations including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Masons, the Odd Fellows, and the National Urban League also maintained offices on Auburn Avenue. As a result, the street not only served as the center of African-American business and social life in Atlanta, but it also reflected a distinct African-American entrepreneurial and artistic culture that first gained momentum during the Harlem Renaissance after World War I and continued on through the mid-twentieth century.

Lugenia Burns Hope

Lugenia Burns Hope (1871-1947) devoted much of her life to developing a variety of social outreach programs for improving the lives of African-Americans in Atlanta, Georgia. Her youth was spent working for numerous charitable organizations, including Kings Daughters and Hull House in Chicago, and from this experience she developed a life-long passion for social reform. From 1890 to 1893, she studied at the Chicago Art Institute, the Chicago School of Design, and the Chicago Business College. In 1897, she married John Hope and later moved with him to Atlanta, where he joined the faculty of the Atlanta Baptist College and subsequently became its President in 1906. During her husband's tenure at the college, Hope met with local residents of the college's West Fair neighborhood to get their feedback on the types of improvements needed in their community. From these efforts the Atlanta Baptist College began providing daycare services, kindergarten programs, and recreational opportunities for children in the area. In 1908, Hope established the Neighborhood Union, which became an international model for community building and race/gender activism. The Neighborhood Union utilized black students, teachers, and business professionals to provide services to African-Americans that were not offered by any other agency or governmental body. The services provided included medical care, assistance with employment, and educational services for African-Americans throughout Atlanta. The Neighborhood Union also established War Work Councils and a nation-wide network of Hostess Houses that provided relocation assistance and entertainment programs to black and Jewish soldiers during and after World War I, similar to the United Service Organization (USO) for white soldiers. Hope was also a founding member of the Atlanta branch of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, and in 1920, led a campaign to end segregation within the Young Women's Christian Association. As President of the Atlanta chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1932, Hope also established "citizenship schools" that offered educational courses, taught by Atlanta University professors, on topics such as democracy, voting, and the United States Constitution. After her husband's death in 1936, Hope became seriously ill and spent her remaining years in New York City, Chicago, and Nashville.

Additional Reading

Big Bethel A.M.E. Church (Sweet Auburn Avenue Web Site)
Sweet Auburn (New Georgia Encyclopedia)
Georgia House Types (New Georgia Encyclopedia)


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