Atlanta Restaurants with Civil Rights History
For delicious food steeped in rich history, you can't miss these Atlanta landmarks.
During the civil rights movement, Atlanta was a hub for civil rights activities, with restaurants playing roles as meeting places and the locations of civil unrest. In 1960, Atlanta's largest retailer, Rich's department store (now closed), was the location where dozens of college students launched a sit-in at the store's restaurant, The Magnolia Room. More than 50 protesters were arrested, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The publicity of those arrests galvanized more than 2,000 students to conduct additional sit-ins the next day, resulting in more than 16 lunch counters being closed. Other notable Atlanta restaurants involved in the civil rights movement include The Municipal Market and Paschal's Restaurant.
Experience a simulation of a lunch counter protest and learn more about the civil rights movement at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park. A short ride on the Atlanta Streetcar from the park takes visitors to The Municipal Market and Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park. And, in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood near Centennial Olympic Park and the Atlanta University Center, visitors can dine at Paschal's.
The Municipal Market
This historic open-air market has gone through several name changes over the years. Starting as an open-air market under a tent in 1917, The Municipal Market opened its doors in 1924 inside the original Municipal Market building and went by the name of the Municipal Market of Atlanta. Although blacks were permitted to shop inside the market when its doors opened, this unconventional integration relegated them to sell their wares outside along the curb. It wasn't until segregation was illegal that blacks were allowed to sell their wares inside the market. Referred to as "The Curb Market" by locals, it's also affectionately called the Sweet Auburn Curb Market as a nod to the market's proximity to Auburn Avenue, which in 1956 Fortune magazine called "The richest Negro Street in the world" and was nicknamed "Sweet Auburn" because of that prosperity.
Related: How to Spend a Day in Atlanta's Sweet Auburn Historic District
Today's market is home to individual vendor stalls, including produce and meat merchants, a bookstore, pharmacy and some of the most popular eateries in the city, including Miss D's Pralines. Specializing in sweets, Miss D's makes authentic New Orleans pralines, which are packed with Georgia pecans, and mixed and poured by hand.
In the early 1960s, the Paschal brothers, James and Robert, became involved in the civil rights movement. Paschal's Restaurant was a place where both blacks and whites were welcome, and the Paschal brothers were known to serve complimentary meals for protesters. They were also known to post bond for arrested protesters as well as to extend restaurant hours, providing a central location where parents and friends could greet their loved ones after release from jail.
Paschal's became the unofficial civil rights meeting place for some of the most notable entertainers, politicians and business people of the time. It was also a meeting place for key civil rights leaders and strategists, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Paschal's Restaurant is known for its fried chicken and Creole dishes like gumbo and catfish etoufee. The current location, less than one mile from the original, opened in 2002 in Atlanta's Castleberry Hill neighborhood, and travelers to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport can enjoy the restaurant’s signature dishes at Paschal's in Concourse B.