HISTORIC COLLIER HEIGHTS ATLANTA
Collier Heights was the premier mid-20′”-century African-American suburb in Atlanta. There was nothing else like it in Atlanta–it is truly unique. Built out at the very end of the period when African Americans were legally and socially constrained as to where they could live, it represents the climax of half a century of concentrated effort on the part of Atlanta’s” African Americans to expand housing opportunities on the west side of the city.
Collier Heights resulted from a combination of factors unique to Atlanta: a desperate need for more housing for African Americans; an unusually large and growing middle and upper-middle class of potential African-American homebuyers (because of the combination of institutions of higher education and business enterprises in the city) the availability of local African American financial resources for land development including land acquisition, subdivision development, construction, and home mortgages: fifty years of land-development experience on the west of the city; a long tradition of effective social and political leadership and a political climate of compromise and conciliation; and plenty of nearby unimproved land which could be developed for African American occupancy without extensive displacement of white property owners.
Collier Heights was truly an “Atlanta” phenomenon.
Collier Heights Historic District, Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia as rewritten by Kevin Polite, HausZwei Homes, HausZwei Homes To Buy or sell a home in Collier Heights or Cascade call Kevin Polite, Solid Source Realty, 404-299-7100. Kevin Polite’s website
State Significance: There is simply nothing quite like Collier Heights anywhere else in the state of Georgia. In the 20th century, Atlanta was the state’s largest city with the largest African-American population. Atlanta also possessed a unique set of factors, described above, that made it possible to imagine, plan, and develop a suburb on the scale and in the character of Collier Heights. While development, none had anything that could compare with the extent, quality and diversity of Collier Heights. Collier Heights is not only the premier mid-201h-century African-American suburb in Atlanta but also the premier mid-20th-century African-American suburb in Georgia.virtually every community in Georgia has some mid-20 th -century African-American residential
National Significance: At the time of its development, Collier Heights received national attention in numerous newspaper stories, news magazine features, and wire service articles. All of them drew attention to the social importance of Collier Heights–an African-American suburban achievement at a time of discrimination and segregation in housing, representing a newly emerging middle and upper middle class of African Americans in the South–and as a premier example of a modern mid-20 h_ century suburb with all the features and attractions for mid-century family life. More recently, the national significance of Collier Heights has been documented by academic historians and presented in scholarly publications.
A good example of the press coverage at the time when Collier Heights was being developed is the earliest known national news story about Collier Heights: a United Press International (UPI) wire service story entitled “Atlanta Has Answer to Negro Housing …”which appeared locally in the Atlanta Daily World on July 17, 1958. This story was written right at the time when development in Collier Heights was reaching a peak; in 1958 alone, eight new subdivisions were begun in the portion of Collier Heights included in this historic district, the most for any single year in Collier Heights‘ history. The story was written by AI Kuettner. Kuettner, an Atlanta native, had worked as a wire service reporter for the United Press since 1942 and had served as bureau manager in Memphis,
Tennessee, and Birmingham, Alabama. In 1952 he had been appointed director and national correspondent for civil rights activities, a post he held until1978. His 1958 article about Collier Heights focused on the fact that Collier Heights was a solution not just for Atlanta’s African-American housing but also for what was described as “one of the nation’s thorniest racial problems … Negro housing.”
Kuettner’s story opened with these lines: “A Negro can stand at a certain spot in Atlanta and as far as his eye [can see there is space for him to live. That’s perhaps the most significant victory yet for the Negro 1n this Deep South metropolis.” He went on to note that “there are several modern all Negro housing developments in Atlanta, a city where one out of three residents is colored.” He pointed out that “by far the most impressive lies in a long corridor bounded on one side by a railroad and on the other by a trunk highway [which] begins near the heart of the city and sweeps west for many miles to the Chattahoochee River:’ And then he focused attention on Collier Heights: “At least1,000 .., acres lie in the rolling and beautifully wooded suburban countryside … [where] homes for Negroes, many in the $20,000 … class, already are showing up on the winding, tree-lined streets!’
Collier Heights Historic District, Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia as rewritten by Kevin Polite, HausZwei Homes, www.hauszweihomes.com
Kuettner ascribed the success of Collier Heights to several factors, some unique to Atlanta, others of a more generic nature. A great deal of credit was given to a spirit of cooperation, conciliation, and consensus building between blacks and whites. But credit was also given to effective political posturing and shrewd bargaining on the part of Atlanta’s black real estate industry and, unique to Atlanta, African-American financing for land development and mortgages (not beholden to white financial interests) and sophisticated middle- and upper-middle-class African-American homebuyers who wanted and could afford the latest in suburban houses. And, of course, Kuettner noted the ready availability of unimproved land in proximity to earlier African-American residential development.
Another national news article featuring Collier Heights was published in the September 21, 1959 issue of Time magazine. Entitled “A Lift in Living,” the article drew attention generally to the new phenomenon of middle-class African Americans suburbs. “It’s lawn well-trimmed, its homes are split level or ranch, its streets neat and winding.” In a list of trailblazing African-American suburbs was Atlanta’s Collier Heights (referred to as “Crestwood Forest,” an early and short-lived moniker for the neighborhood). In recognition of the African Americans who were populating these new suburbs, the article explained that “these developments are all peopled by the newly prospering Negro middle class, who’ all seem to have one thing in common: a fever for good living…. They settle where the air is clean and the schools good, join the P.T.A., buy power lawnmowers, curse the crab grass, endure the rigors of commuting, and barbecue their steaks, buy second cars and second TV sets, grumble about taxes.” But then the article went on to point out more and more houses for the black suburban market- indeed, almost all of the suburbs cited in the article were built by white developers – overlooking the critical fact that Collier Heights in Atlanta was one of the relatively few suburbs built by as well as for African Americans.
A most telling article about Collier Heights– and how it was being presented to a national audience appeared in the August 9, 1959 Sunday edition of The New York Times. It was written by the wife and-husband team of Wilma Dykeman and James Stokely, well-known authors and journalists who just two years earlier had received the prestigious Sidney Hillman Foundation Award for their 1957 book, Neither Black Nor White, written in the aftermath of the 1954 U. S. Supreme Court school desegregation ruling, which attempted to get beyond regional and racial stereotypes to address fundamental human rights and civil liberties as well as environmental justice. Their 1959 newspaper article, entitled “New Southerner: The Middle-Class Negro,” described the new “Negro middle class” in the South: “a middle class … with picture-window homes, shiny new cars, hardworking P.T.A.’s, and all the other gadgets and accomplishments of similar groups anywhere in the United States.”
Through text and a photograph, the article featured Collier Heights as a “sign of the rise of a new Negro middle class in Atlanta”; the photograph, not coincidentally, shows a modern ranch house with double carport in an expansive landscaped yard, “a modern home in the Collier Heights area.” The authors went on to put Collier Heights in a national context: To glimpse the middle-class Negro South, a visitor might go to Durham,
- C., once called “the capital of the black bourgeoisie” because of its numerous large and successful Negro enterprises, or to New Orleans, with its “fanciest minority
subdivision” in perhaps the whole nation …. But the true center of the Negro’s
Southern Middle-Class is in Atlanta…where the colored man has assumed a new place.
Collier Heights Historic District, Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia as rewritten by Kevin Polite, HausZwei Homes, www.hauszweihomes.com 36 To Buy or sell a home in Collier Heights or Cascade call Kevin Polite, Solid Source Realty, 404-299-7100. http://www.hauszweihomes.com/
To Buy or sell a home in Collier Heights or Cascade
Call Kevin Polite, Solid Source Realty, 404-299-7100.