Atlanta History: Civil Rights thru the eyes of Tom Houck


Originally posted to the AndTopherToo Atlanta blog.

Five years ago I was introduced to a boisterous Grant Park neighbor named Tom Houck. My [then fiancé] and I began to run into him often, usually at our next door neighbor's house or our favorite local pub, Augustine's. When Tom asked what we wanted as a wedding gift I thought for a moment and said "a personal tour of the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta from you". 

For those of you who don't already know this conspicuous Atlantan: Tom was the driver for the King family from 1966 until Martin's assassination in 1968. From there he joined the staff of the Southern Christian Leadership conference. In the early '70s Tom worked with John Lewis and Julian Bond on a project encouraging minorities to vote. His involvement with politics, combined with a long standing interest in journalism, grew into a career in radio and TV. Since 1980 Houck has been an outspoken, liberal, staple of the Atlanta media. This month he launches his own Civil Rights bus tour. The tagline: "taking you to to the places where history was made by those who made history".

I am someone who is passionate about history, Atlanta and sharing interesting stories. So when Tom told me he was finally starting this company I insisted on being involved. Lucky for me, Tom didn't refuse. 

The first time I ran through the route with Tom, Ron and AB I was left speechless. They took me to beautiful but decaying parts of Atlanta that I'd never seen yet were only a few miles from my home. These are places that changed the course of American history. The more they showed me and the more they talked, the more I realized I had some research to do before I was going to fully understand Atlanta's role in the American Civil Rights Movement. With that in mind I've compiled a timeline. Hopefully it will help others to organize their thoughts and understanding about a few of Atlanta's quickly decaying but incredibly historic neighborhoods. 

A timeline of America and Atlanta leading up to the Civil Rights Movement

  • 1861 - 1865 Civil War 
  • 1868 - 14th Amendment makes African Americans full citizens of the United States and prohibits states from denying them equal protection or due process of law. 
  • 1870 - 15th Amendment guarantees the right to vote will not be denied or abridged on account of race. Simultaneously, Tennessee passes a law that clearly aims to defy the new amendment. This segregation law also known as "Jim Crow" mandates the separation of African Americans from whites on trains, in depots and wharves. It becomes a catalyst for the rest of the South to quickly do the same. 
  • 1893 Atlanta's Wheat Street is renamed Auburn Ave to sound more cosmopolitan. 
  • 1896 Ruling of Plessy v Ferguson. In 1892, Plessy bought a first-class ticket from New Orleans on the East Louisiana Railway. The Supreme Court ruled that "separate but equal" facilities were constitutional. The finding contributes to 58 more years of segregation in the south.
  • By 1900 African Americans are banned from white hotels, barber shops, restaurants, theaters, schools and other public accommodations. 
  • 1905 Alonzo Herndon, son of a slave owner and slave, who rose through Atlanta's African American community with his prestigious upperclass, white-only, Crystal Palace Barber Shop, founds Atlanta Life Insurance Company.
  • 1906 Race Riot in Atlanta.  25 black Atlantans killed, 70 injured. Including George "Union" Wilder, a former union soldier who had become post master for South Atlanta. "Union" was shot by police officers while defending his home with a muzzle loading rifle. This riot marks the beginning of black businesses and families consciously moving to the Fourth Ward for safety via consolidation. White families begin to move out.
  • By 1910 Ten of the eleven former Confederate states have passed new constitutions or amendments that deprive most blacks the right to vote. Those who can't vote are not allowed to serve on a jury and are often taken advantage of.
  • 1912 Odd Fellows Building is constructed on Auburn Ave. It is first large-scale, black-owned, black-operated, multiple use complex in Atlanta (includes an auditorium). 
  • 1913 Atlanta Baptist College becomes Morehouse.
  • 1920 Atlanta Life Insurance building is constructed on Auburn Ave. 
  • 1924 Booker T Washington High School opens as the first African American high school in Georgia. 
  • 1928 Atlanta Daily World is founded. The newspaper devotes itself to coverage of black educational institutions, businesses, prominent persons, churches and other news of significance.
  • 1929 Atlanta University Center is founded.
  • 1936 John Wesley Dobbs, Maynard Jackson's grandfather, starts a voter registration drive. In 10 years he registers 20,000 minority Atlanta voters.
  • 1936 Techwood Homes opens as the nation's first federal public housing project. 
  • 1941 President Roosevelt issues executive order banning discrimination against minorities in defense contracts. Herndon Homes public housing is built in Vine City. 
  • 1947 Jackie Robinson becomes first African American to play major league baseball.
  •  1948 President Harry S. Truman desegregates the armed services. Atlanta's police force integrates but the 8 officers are still required to use the locker rooms at the Butler Street YMCA.
  • 1954 Brown v the Board of Education declares segregated schools unconstitutional. This overturns the 1896 "separate but equal" ruling of Plessy v Ferguson.
  • 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott.
  • 1956 Fortune magazine hails Auburn Ave "richest Negro street in the world". 
  • 1960 Lunch counter sit-in by four college students in Greensboro, N.C. begins and spreads through the South. The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is founded. John F. Kennedy is elected president. 
  • 1961 Atlanta schools integrate on the same day Dobbs dies of a stroke.
  • 1963 (August): March on Washington. MLK Jr delivers his "I have a dream" speech. 
  • 1963 (September): Birmingham church is bombed killing four African American girls attending Sunday school.
  • 1963 (November): JFK Jr is assassinated.
  • 1964 (July): Civil Rights Act outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. 
  • 1964 (October) MLK Jr is awarded Nobel Peace Prize.
  • 1965 Selma to Montgomery march.
  • 1968 MLK Jr is assassinated in Memphis.
  • 1979 Maynard Jackson, Dobbs’ grandson, becomes mayor of Atlanta.


Listen to the NPR Marketplace story about Tom Houck's Civil Rights Tour. 

Looking back & looking forward

Since this blog began in September 2011 the focus has shifted several times. We started as an urban garden blog and moved into advocating for a healthy locavore lifestyle. Next it was biking, beer and enthusiasm for Atlanta. Since May it's been all about backyard chickens. At this point I think it's in my best interest to ditch all labels and just say: this is my blog and I'll write about whatever I want! So that's my plan for And Topher Too in 2015 - blog about anything/everything without worrying how it fits into the blogosphere. 

Highlights from 2014:

Gnome March in the Inman Park Parade

Binge watching 30 Rock and Parks & Rec on Netflix

Walking into Target after a hard day in the studio and seeing 4 of my designs together in stationery aisle

And (of course) Topher too

Buggy Town Auction

After weeks of trying to find Starbuck and Sparrow new homes through Craigslist and Facebook I gave up and looked for other options. More than one person suggested eating them; I considered it but decided it wasn't what I wanted to do. Then a friend mentioned a poultry auction in Barnesville, Georgia (90 minutes south of our home). It was the only option left. The boys had to go. So Friday at noon we packed the two Splash Silkie Roosters into a make shift cage and headed to the country.

We arrived a little before 2pm and joined the line of pick-up trucks waiting to register barnyard animals for that evening's auction. At some point a goat escaped; this sent half a dozen people in denim and camouflage running around a field in half hearted attempts to catch it. A teenager in muck boots, with a noticeable ring of dip in his back pocket, finally got close enough to pin the goat to the ground with his knee. I was impressed.

After our chickens were checked in and dropped off we headed into Barnesville for lunch. There were two pizza places, two BBQ places and a Chinese Buffet to chose from. After eating we wandered around the three antique shops/flea markets. At dusk we headed back to the auction. All the poultry had been lined up in rows. The make-shift cages were as interesting as their contents. I found Starbuck and Sparrow between a peacock and turkey. I couldn't help but wonder how they were feeling about all this.

The auction started with what they call "farm miscellaneous" but could more accurately described as "garage sale crap". Tiki torches, old buckets of house paint, a cat bed, a bag of nails. The auctioneer was genuinely entertaining but as far as I could tell everything eventually sold for "one dollar bill". The poultry bidding was still two hours away. I decided if I didn't know who took Starbuck and Sparrow then I could go on pretending they ended up on a big beautiful farm somewhere out in the country. With that in mind we left the auction and headed home to Atlanta. Maybe we'll be back in a month or two to pick out a few more hens.  

Flock update:
• 2 Gold Laced Wyandotte hens 
• 2 Ameraucana hens
• 1 Black Silkie Rooster - we're going to try and keep him quiet (so we can keep him) but if it doesn't work he'll need to find a new home too. 

Urban Backyard Chickens: the first 6 months

A summary of our first six months raising urban backyard chickens in Grant Park, Atlanta: 
May 29th - bring home 7 chicks. 4 Ameraucanas, 3 Silkies. We hand raise them in a brooder in our dining room. The "chick cam" is born. 
• June 7th - the chicks pose on the front porch in my favorite vintage milk glass pieces for their official baby pics
July 11th - the chicks move outside into the coop. 
• August 23rd - Mary Anne mysteriously dies. We suspect she either ate glass (there is a lot of it buried in the yard) or suffered heat stroke.
• Late August - Blackbeard crows: surprise Roo#1. 
September 7th - bring home three 5 month old Gold Lace Wyandottes to replace the unexpected rooster and unexpected death. The "new girls" quickly dominate the existing flock. 
• September 13th - Starbuck crows: surprise Roo#2.
• September 24th - Professor dies after battling a parasite for several days. She was the friendliest and my clear favorite; this loss is hard.
• October 12th - We find our first eggs in the coop. It seems the Wyandottes are laying but the Ameraucanas are not (those eggs should be mint colored).
• October 17th - "New Girl" Wyandotte is eaten by the neighbor's dog. 
• November 9th - Sparrow crows: surprise Roo#3. This means all of the Silkies are roosters. This news coincides with a neighbor finally complaining. Verdict: my adorable "Muppets" must go... but where? Help, please (seriously - help)!

Halloween, GaTech Homecoming and Chomp & Stomp!

Halloween weekend was the kind of weekend that highlights how wonderful life is in in-town Atlanta. The more I hear people comment on how "safe" they feel in the suburbs the more I realize they have no idea what they're missing out on. Friday night, after handing out candy to over 100 trick-or-treaters in Grant Park, we headed to a friend's costume party in Reynoldstown (costumes, with hints, below). Bluegrass band and BBQ from DBA? Perhaps I can overlook the sudden freezing temperature!

At noon the next day we hopped on our bikes and braved the frigid headwinds to join friends tailgating the Georgia Tech Homecoming game. After a couple of hours we jumped on the Beltline and cruised over to Cabbagetown for Chomp and Stomp. There we hung out with my brother and a few former co-workers. The transition from engineer friends to artist friends was barely noticeable as both events were so full of lively, happy people (and beer). Next weekend is MothBall - after that I'm hanging up all my costumes until 2015!!

Get the scoop from the coop!

If you're not following And Topher Too on Pinterest and Twitter then you're missing most of the new content! Twitter has up to the minute updates from the Coop Cam* (with photos) and Pinterest has links to both helpful relative articles and images from our daily life on this teeny tiny urban hobby farm. 

*After clicking the link to the cam, then click "flash" or "browser". 

The unbelievable (but true) life of the general who tried to defend Atlanta

My interest in General John Hood can be pinpointed to one historic marker in Oakland Cemetery (high five to Roman Mars/99% invisible - "always read the plaque"). It said something along the lines of "it was here that General John Hood watched the burning of Atlanta from the second story window of a [future Atlanta mayor's] home". At the time of reading I knew enough to think: why is the man in charge of defending Atlanta during Sherman's raid watching from a second story window a couple of miles from the action!? The answer is so much better (and more complicated) then I could have imagined. Read on.

• 1831 - John Hood born in Owingsville, Kentucky
• 1849 - Obtains an appointment to West Point from his uncle, Representative Richard French; his father would prefer a career in medicine. An average student, he is nearly expelled by Superintendent Colonel Robert E. Lee for an unauthorized visit to a local tavern. (1)
• 1853 - Hood graduates 44th out of 52 and is assigned to infantry in California. James McPherson, Hood's classmate, friend and future Union General opponent, graduates first in this class. (4)
• 1855 - Reassigned to the 2nd US Cavalry in Texas.
• 1857 - Wounded in the hand by an arrow during a routine patrol.
• 1861 - Battle of Fort Sumter. The Civil War begins; Hood immediately resigns from the US Army and enlists in the Confederate Army.
• 1863 (July) - Battle of Gettysburg. Hood is badly wounded in his left arm by shrapnel. The arm is saved but remains useless for the rest of his life.
• 1863 (September) - Battle of Chickamauga. Hood leads a key attack which drives much of the Union army from the field. In the fighting, his right leg is severely wounded and must be amputated four inches below the hip. Hood's condition is so grave that the surgeon sends the severed leg along with him in the ambulance (assuming that they will be buried together). For his bravery, he is promoted to lieutenant general. (2)
• 1864 (spring) - Members of Hood's 1855 Texas Brigade collect $3,100 in a single day to buy him a prosthetic cork leg imported (through the Union blockade) from Europe . Despite his two damaged limbs, Hood rides well (strapped to his horse with his artificial leg hanging stiffly, and an orderly following closely behind with crutches).
• 1864 (July) - Hood is promoted to the temporary rank of full general and given command of the confederate army just outside the gates of Atlanta. At 33 years old Hood is the youngest man on either side to be given command of an army.
** This is where the aforementioned historic marker comes into play. At this point, Hood has one leg and one arm yet still finds himself in the 2nd story of someone's home. My question this time was how did he get up those stairs!? Crutches?!**
• 1864 (September) - Battle of Atlanta. Hood fails to defend the city and is forced to surrender. His West Point classmate, friend and Union rival, James McPherson is killed during battle. Hood writes "the announcement of which cause[s] me sincere sorrow".
• 1865 (January) - Hood is replaced. 
• 1865 (spring) - the Civil War ends. Hood moves to New Orleans to start anew. 
• 1866 - Hood establishes a career in the cotton insurance business. (3)
• 1868 - Hood marries Anna Marie Hennen, the highly educated daughter of a New Orleans attorney. During the next ten years they have eleven children - including three sets of twins. They live an elegant home at the corner Camp and Third Street in NOLA's Garden District.
• 1878 (summer) - Yellow Fever ravages New Orleans. The family retreats to Hammond, LA for safety but Hood's insurance business is decimated and the family is forced to mortgage their home.
• 1879 (summer) - Yellow Fever continues to threaten the people of New Orleans but the Hood family no longer has the financial means to leave. A neighbor across the street develops Yellow Fever. 
• 1879 (August 24) - Hood's beloved wife dies of Yellow Fever.
• 1879 (August 29) - Hood's oldest daughter dies of Yellow Fever.
• 1879 (August 31) - Hood dies of Yellow Fever. He is 48 years old and leaves behind 10 orphans. The children are adopted by seven different families in Louisiana, New York, Mississippi, Georgia and Kentucky.

Links & Sources:

Something to Twitter about: our first eggs

Sunday evening we found our first eggs in the coop! Since then there has been one a day in the same spot. They're brown which means they're from either the Gold Lace Wyandottes or the Silkie (though we're pretty sure it's the former). They've all been relatively small but I think they will gradually get bigger with time. Hopefully the rest of the flock will start laying very soon!

Also, And Topher Too now has it's very own Twitter account! Click here to follow us. 

Starbuck (ahem, Kara Thrace) and her special destiny

Well, I guess when you name something after a character defined by their "special destiny" then you get what you deserve. A few weeks ago one of our little Silkies, Starbuck, revealed her special destiny - by crowing. Whoops. A rooster? That wasn't part of our plan. She's (ahem, HE'S - that has been a hard transition) been fighting with the new girls so I've decided he has to go. If you're interested in making Starbuck part of your family please leave a comment. Later this weekend I'll post him on Craigslist.

Gold Lace Wyandottes!

This evening I brought home our newest girls! They're Gold Laced Wyandottes. Aren't their feathers beautiful? The edges look painted. In the beginning I planned on naming all the chickens based off nautical themes (so far, pirates and Gilligan's Island) but I'm thinking of making an exception for this breed. Perhaps they'll be named after female painters/artists. "Georgia" O'Keefe, Mary "Cassatt" and "Marina" Abramović (she was performing her famous The Artist is Present when Oliver propsed at MOMA). 

Chickens love snacktime!

In an effort to keep the chickens cool, during the hottest part of summer, we've started giving them frozen treats. Mostly grape tomatoes, blueberries and grapes. The first day they were interested but not enthusiastic. By day three they're so excited about snacktime that they'll eat right out of your hand. We're thinking about what tricks we might be able to teach them to perform for food.

In the video: Professor, front and center. Then the twinsies, Starbuck and Sparrow (aka Tweedle Dee and Tweddle Dum) run over; they specialize in stealing the snacks and running to a corner with them. Next Blackbeard saunters over but Lovey jumps passed him for the grape. Ginger is standing in the back. 

The trouble with bedtime / we lost our first chicken

The photos for this post were taken earlier in the week with the intention of writing about "the trouble with bedtime". And while that is still what I want to cover there has been a sad and unexpected turn of events. Saturday morning, around sunrise, I went to let the chicks out of the coop. One by one everyone filed out except Mary Anne. I climbed up the ladder and opened the door to shoo her out. Instead I found her dead; she was laying in the shavings just below the spot on the roost where I'd placed her the night before. No blood, no bite marks, no obvious cause of death. The only significant thing was her behavior the night before: she'd gone into the coop on her own, alone, and settled into the corner while the rest of her flock did their adorably ridiculous corner crowding in the dirt below. I now realize she probably went off on her own because she wasn't feeling well. 

When I found Mary Anne in the coop the night before I was excited because it is rare that any of the chicks move indoors at night. When I found her there I thought "they're finally getting it!!" The rest of the flock was still piled like puppies in their "yard". 

In an effort to teach them what they need to be doing, every evening at dusk we go into the coop and move them, one by one, from their hot crowded cuddle to their upstairs roost. Once placed on the roost they quickly fall back to sleep and stay in that exact spot until the next morning. We're not sure why they won't move to the roost on their own. The Ameraucana's have no trouble with the ramp between the yard and coop but the Silkies struggle. Starbuck, Sparrow and Blackbeard have to be encouraged up the ramp (and poor dumb Starbuck frequently sticks her head to the side or spreads her wings out just as she should be ducking into the doorway).  Perhaps the problem is they all want to stay together? And the Ameraucanas feel sorry for their chubby friends who aren't so good at climbing the ramp so they all sleep together outside? Doubtful, I know. It is sweet though, the way they wrap their necks around one another and rest their heads on each other's backs. It almost makes me want to leave them in their snuggle. But for safety from predators and (the seemingly far off) winter weather they need to learn to go inside at night. If anyone has a suggestion, I'm all ears. Otherwise, I'll let you know when the girls finally figure it out.

For our record keeping/bloggy almanac:
Sorry to lose you little Mary Anne. You were spastic but sweet and smart. As a chick you liked to jump. 
Died at 13 weeks. Cause of death unknown, possibly heat stress/stroke or eating a shard of glass. 

EAV and Grant Park Criterion, Summer Shade Fest

This time of year always makes me thankful for Atlanta's fantastic intown neighborhoods. The East Atlanta and Grant Park Criterion were held last weekend. Friends with homes/businesses along the courses hosted leisurely front porch parties with neighbors drifting in and out. Today and tomorrow are the annual Grant Park Summer Shade Fest. In a couple of hours we'll walk to the park with a blanket, cooler and hopes of running into my brother. (If you go to the fest be sure look for his t-shirt booth, Wandering Line.) And of course next weekend, Labor Day weekend, is my favorite Atlanta 3-day weekend. Bring on Dragon*Con and SEC football!