Georgia Tech To Raze Segregation-Era Cafeteria
By Laryssa Wirstiuk | Online Only | Nov. 17, 2008
In an effort to create green space in urban Atlanta, the Georgia Institute of Technology plans to demolish Pickrick Cafeteria, an on-campus building with ties to the Civil Rights movement.
"The cafeteria was not built with the intent of long-term use, and it does not meet the university's needs," says Lisa Ray Grovenstein, spokeswoman for Georgia Tech. "The structure is functionally obsolete, environmentally unsound, and unsafe for human occupancy."
Now known as the Ajax Building, the small, one-story structure, which Georgia Tech purchased in 1965, is currently used as an overflow space for the campus police department.
On Monday, Nov. 3, representatives from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation and the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources testified at a public hearing to urge the university to save the former cafeteria.
"We feel very strongly that the Civil Rights movement is one of the most important events of the 20th century, and we are going to be very sorry if we lose this building," says Mark McDonald, president and CEO of the Georgia Trust.
In 1947, Lester Maddox, also known as "Mr. White Backlash," and his wife, Virginia, opened the Pickrick Cafeteria at 881 Hemphill Avenue. An outspoken enemy of civil rights, Maddox published weekly advertisements in The Atlanta Journal under the headline "Pickrick Says." In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Atlanta.
On July 3, 1964, Maddox denied several African Americans admittance to his restaurant, fearing they would stage a protest. Photographers captured images of Maddox with a revolver and Maddox's son with a pick handle, chasing Reverend Albert Dunn. Reporters returned to the restaurant, hoping to capture more photographs.
Maddox was prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Jusice for violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and earned a reputation as an advocate of segregation. In 1966, Maddox ran for governor of Georgia and won.
"It's a very difficult site because it has a history that many of us would rather forget. For many Georgians, it's a site of sorrow and frustration," says Ray Luce, director of the Historic Preservation Division for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. "We really need to be able to remember all parts of our history if we're going to learn from it."
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