HBCUs are Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the City of Atlanta is a hotbed for them, some started the year the Civil War ended, all located adjacent to each other on the Westside just beyond Mercedes Benz Stadium.
When it’s bustling there (as usual), you feel the vibrant continuation of the astounding Civil Rights legacies birthed in this space. But now, it’s quiet. The students have been elsewhere since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although the contractors and guards are still tending and gatekeeping (as we must keep tending these legacies), and at the end of this historic-in-its-own-right year, you feel a sacred reverence.
Historical markers punctuate the space, and in my new Ride Spot self-guided bike tour, Atlanta’s HBCUs while Traveling at the Speed of Bike, I take you directly past ones about the Atlanta Student Movement, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced snick), and An Appeal for Human Rights.
There’s a Relay Bikeshare station on the corner of Westview in front of Spelman College, but fair warning: this route is hilly and Relay isn’t always up to the task. Additional note: please walk your bike on the sidewalk when you are on Joseph E. Lowery Blvd. The rest (beyond the MLK Jr. Blvd cycletrack) should be fine for street riding. I kept this tour under four miles, but it covers a lot of ground. If you need a brush-up on street skills, see my free downloadable Pedal Power with Pattie class here.
Start at the new green-painted cycle track up MLK Jr. Drive and you’ll arrive at Morris Brown College, recently approved to pursue accreditation again (almost twenty years after having lost it due to financial reasons), the buildings old and beautiful. Then, swing past Spelman, Morehouse, and Morehouse School of Medicine, walking your bike through a senior housing community to an overlook at Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture.
Finally, come back up the Atlanta Student Movement Boulevard through Clark Atlanta University; catch Muhammed Yungai’s mural, “Helping Hands”; and pass the Interdenominational Theological Center before returning to Mercedes Benz Stadium, with a last-minute stop to notice just how close a remaining church is to it and the fact that two others were destroyed to build that stadium.
If you want to keep riding after that, my free MARTA Murals and Castleberry Hill while Traveling at the Speed of Bike tours are spitting distance away. (See all free, self-guided bike tours to date here, if interested.)
That’s Matt. He was a Today’s Nice Stranger. You can meet him here.
There’s construction happening at Morris Brown College to restore it to its former glory, and it’s its own kind of pretty.
There’s a map at the Relay Bikeshare station that may help you get your bearings. There are also helpful maps at all the shuttle stops.
This is an amazing urban farm named the Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture, started by my friend K. Rashid Nuri. Artist Muhammed Yungai included a portrait of Rashid in a mural he painted that was part of the Off the Wall legacy project as community outreach during the Super Bowl. It is on my nearby Castleberry Hill tour. I was asked to interview Rashid about his wonderful book at an astounding farm-to-table dinner party and I wrote about it here (plus there’s a link to my review of the book), if you are interested.
I waited on a corner of Joseph E. Lowery Blvd, where Ashview Heights’ Fair Street changes names to Atlanta Student Movement Boulevard, as this older man sort of limped slowly up the sidewalk. I asked him if he was walking his bike because it was a hill or because the street was dangerous. He said it was because the street was dangerous. We wished each other safety and a blessed day. I know change is planned. But that didn’t help this man today.
There are a series of historical markers quite close to each other on Atlanta Student Movement Boulevard right before you enter the shared space on Clark Atlanta University’s campus. Read them all. Both sides. This may be brand new information to you, or reinforcement of stories you’ve lived or heard yourself.
This wide shared space on the campus of Clark Atlanta University (which was formed when Clark and Atlanta Universities merged) is very pleasant to ride. Don’t miss the historical marker about the little church you’ll pass on your right about halfway up.
The artist of this mural (on the side of the Atlanta university Center’s Robert W. Woodruff Library), Muhammed Yungai, was a teacher who started painting murals to brighten up the Kipps Academy school where he taught, and has since gone on to paint murals in numerous schools plus two others (in addition to this) that were part of the Super Bowl community outreach legacy project called Off the Wall. You can read more about that here.
You may have heard that there were churches too close to where they wanted to build Mercedes Benz Stadium. If you were wondering what too close looked like, this is the one that survived. Two others didn’t.