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Built in the early 1900s, the shotgun houses at 472-488 Auburn Avenue NE were once houses for mill workers for the Empire Textile Company. The Atlanta Race Riot of 1906, which took place from September 22-24, caused the houses' owners to move, and African Americans began renting the homes. The race riots began after Atlanta newspapers reported four unconfirmed instances of assault on white women by African American men. Coupled with rising racial tensions because of a growing population in Atlanta, white mobs assaulted African Americans and attacked African American-owned businesses. In three days, 25 to 40 African Americans were killed. Atlanta's image as a "thriving New South city" was damaged, and African Americans looked toward the more radical strategies of W. E. B. Du Bois for racial equality. Atlanta stayed segregated, as can be seen in the shotgun houses. By 1910, these homes were entirely owned by members of the African American community.

  • Photograph of the Shotgun Houses Historical Marker.
  • Photograph of 488 Auburn Avenue, a Shotgun House.

The Shotgun Houses are located at 472-488 Auburn Avenue NE in Atlanta, Georgia, and the historical marker and plaque are located in front of 488 Auburn Avenue. Shotgun houses are usually one room wide and up to four rooms deep. Usually, there are 3 to 5 rooms without a hallway. On Auburn Avenue, the shotgun houses are joined together and share a wall. In addition, two theories exist explaining the name. One is that a shot could be fired from front to back because the interior and exterior doorways line up. A second theory is that the name comes from "to-gun," an African word that means place of assembly. Originally the duplex-style homes housed blue-collar laborers in Atlanta, Georgia, in the early 20th century. White mill workers from the Empire Textile Company (also referred to the Empire State Investment Company in some sources) lived in the shotgun houses. However, after the 1906 Atlanta race riot, the white workers moved out, and African Americans began renting the homes. By 1910, the shotgun houses were entirely owned by African Americans.

The Atlanta Race Riot of 1906 took place from September 22-24, 1906, after local newspapers alleged that African American males assaulted white females. There were, however, more causes of the riot. For instance, Atlanta's population grew drastically between 1880 and 1910, meaning that there was increased job competition between African American and white workers. White elites did not want the races mingling either, so Jim Crow segregation was expanded, especially in neighborhoods and public transportation. With the new right to vote during Reconstruction, African Americans were also more active politically and economically. Candidates in the 1906 race for governor played on the white population's fears of a black upper class. Hoke Smith and Clark Howell, who both owned newspapers, swayed public opinion through their respective newspapers. Other newspapers not owned by Smith or Howell also spread stories that white women were assaulted by African Americans.

In late September, white mobs killed or wounded dozens of African Americans and damaged property after four separate, unsubstantiated stories of assault. On the evening of September 22, white mobs could not be calmed and assaulted hundreds of African Americans and destroyed African American-owned businesses in Atlanta. On September 23, Atlanta was put under the control of the state militia. Even though the police patrolled Atlanta, African Americans armed themselves for protection, fearful that the mob would return. A group of African Americans met on Monday, September 24 while heavily armed, worrying the police that there would be a counterattack. The police raided the meeting in Brownsville, Georgia, and a shootout began. After a police officer was killed, heavily armed militia also came to Brownsville and arrested over 250 African Americans.

On Monday and Tuesday, the press and city officials called for an end to the mob violence. National reports of the riots damaged Atlanta's image as a "thriving New South city."3 Anywhere from 25 to 40 African Americans were killed during the riots. African Americans continued to fear violence, so the city stayed segregated. The African American community in Atlanta faced an economic depression. In 1908, black suffrage was restricted. The African American community also strayed from Booker T. Washington's strategy and instead looked toward the more aggressive tactics of W. E. B. Du Bois for racial justice. Ultimately, the Atlanta Race Riot of 1906, though largely forgotten in Atlanta's official histories, was an important turning point for Atlanta's African American community and the African American community more broadly in the United States.

1 Fischer, William. Shotgun Houses, The Historical Marker Database. June 16th 2016. Accessed January 1st 2020.

2 Shotgun Houses in the U.S., The Santa Monica Conservancy. Accessed January 1st 2020.

3 Mixon, Gregory . Atlanta Race Riot of 1906, New Georgia Encyclopedia . October 29th 2015. Accessed January 2nd 2020.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Image courtesy of William Fischer from the Historical Marker Database.

Image courtesy of William Fischer from the Historical Marker Database.