Documenting the Color Line in Atlanta

If you want to really understand -- see and feel -- the color line that existed in Atlanta prior to desegregation in the 1960s, there may be no better starting point than the Fabulous Fox Theatre. Turns out it wasn't so fabulous for black patrons during the first 30 years of its existence.

This is the subject of a NEH-sponsored summer workshop directed by Dr. Tim Crimmins, Professor of History and Director of the Center for Neighborhood and Metropolitan Studies at Georgia State University. He wants to document the color line in segregated Atlanta, as well as find people who experienced it firsthand.

In this video, we enter the Fox with Gwen Middlebrooks and Dr. Crimmins via the colored-only entrance -- the steep outside staircase that hugs the building on Ponce de Leon Ave. -- and sit in the nose-bleed section of the balcony while she recounts her experience on a date in the late 1950s. Her father later castigated her for going in through the "back door," something he told to never do again.

Then we approach the Fox from its grand (formerly whites-only) Peachtree Ave. entrance, stepping in through the front doors, as did Gwen and friends, a few years later, wearing sari's and passing as Indians as they accompanied a visiting Indian professor at Spelman. Yes, she was a risk taker. She later participated in the Atlanta sit-ins.

We edited two versions of the video. The longer version includes more background on Ms. Middlebrooks' parents (re their working-class background and attitudes towards segregation) and also show the separate-AND-unequal restroom facilities. A stark contrast there.

8-17-16 UPDATE:  he GSU Creative Media Industries Institute referred to the Fox video in its blog today: "The issue [how race, class, poverty, and discrimination] is of central importance for Atlanta. Despite progress, the historical legacy of segregation has been deeply persistent; e.g., watch this powerful video tour of the Fox Theatre, which features Gwen Middlebrooks and GSU historian Tim Crimmins and tells the story of historically segregated entertainment...."