Historic Resources - African American

Historic African American Properties


Historic properties associated with African Americans form an important subset of the state's historic properties. A large population of African Americans has lived in Georgia, making important contributions to the state's history and culture. Overall, the pattern of historic properties associated with African Americans in Georgia is similar to the statewide profile in terms of types of buildings and periods of development. However, significant differences distinguish African American historic properties in at least five ways:
 

  • First and foremost, there are proportionally far fewer extant historic properties associated with African Americans. Although African Americans historically made up approximately one-third of the state's population, fewer than ten percent of the state’s historic properties are known to be directly associated with African Americans. Part of this disproportion is due to the fact that many historic properties associated with African American history have been lost through demolition, neglect, or replacement. Another reason is that until recently African -American associations with extant historic properties have not been well documented; with continuing advances in historical research, more historic properties associated with Georgia's African American population are being documented.
     
  • Second, there are differences in the relative numbers of the different types of extant historic buildings associated with African Americans. Houses constitute a smaller percentage, while community landmark buildings make up a much larger percentage. Two-thirds of African American community landmark buildings are churches, compared with one-half statewide. Another large percentage are schools. Very few historic African American owned-and-operated farms have been documented, although a number are represented in National Register listings and Centennial Farm designations; conversely, many farms and plantations in the Piedmont, Coastal Plain, and Coastal regions were worked and even managed by enslaved African Americans prior to the Civil War and by African American tenant farmers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but relatively few associated buildings and structures remain.
     
  • Third, the environmental setting of Georgia's African American historic properties differs from the statewide profile. Greater percentages are in urban areas including smaller cities and towns. Correspondingly smaller percentages are located in rural areas. Far fewer are in suburban areas; the city of Atlanta is an exception, with its extraordinary collection of 20th century African American suburbs stretching westward from the Atlanta University Center to Collier Heights. Another difference in the environmental setting is due to racially segregated settlement patterns.  In many communities, all African American historic properties are situated in the same relatively small area.  As a result, large and small houses, community landmarks and places of work, industries and recreational facilities, all are juxtaposed in a distinctive community amalgam that is different from white-occupied historic areas where "zoning," whether by ordinance or practice, tended to separate disparate land uses and building types. In rural areas, many African American houses are clustered in distinctive hamlets, sometimes with a small country store and occasionally a church and school.
     
  • Fourth, there are significant differences in the architectural characteristics of houses associated with African Americans. The percentage of vernacular (or "no academic style") houses is much higher, and there is a greater prevalence of smaller house types and forms such as shotguns, hall-parlor houses, double pens, and saddlebag-type houses.
     
  • Finally, with regard to historic landscapes, African American associations are not well documented in existing surveys. Distinctive landscape traditions dating from the antebellum period through the mid-20th century, characterized by strong cultural associations and symbolic meanings rather than visual aesthetics, have been recognized in the past few years.  In other cases, documented African American landscapes such as the swept yard have virtually disappeared.


 

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