Rage in the Gate City: The Story of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot

By Rebecca Burns | Go to book overview

9
Low Dives and Blind Tigers

“[Decatur Street dives are] a veritable inferno where
the souls of men and women are being gulped down
at an appalling rate.”

— H. B. WATSON, Voice of the Negro, September 1906

Few middle-class Atlantans of either race publicly questioned whether the men accused of sex crimes reported in the local press over the summer of 1906 had actually committed them. Instead, Atlanta’s bourgeoisie speculated on how much more crime might be percolating in the city’s bars, brothels, and saloons. The Journal ’s editors opined: “It has been a fact that the negro clubs and restaurants which have only been disguised dives of the worst class, have fostered and engendered criminals of the lowest species.” The Constitution reported, “the police … have found that idleness breeds viciousness and say that the loafing vagrants are the class that are assaulting white women.”1

Many elite blacks condemned the dives just as harshly as white newspaper editors and politicians. Writing in the Voice of the Negro’s September 1906 issue, H. B. Watson described Decatur Street as a place crowded with “staggering men and swaggering, brazen women congesting the shops, the saloons, the alleys and the back ways — people divested of all shame and remorse.”2

Just a few blocks away from Five Points, the commercial heart of the city, Decatur Street was Atlanta’s notorious center of sex and sin, home

-83-

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Rage in the Gate City: The Story of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Notes on Language and Sources xi
  • Introduction - Atlanta, 1906 1
  • 1 - A Lynching in Lakewood 9
  • 2 - Politics of Fear 15
  • 3 - The Gate City 23
  • 4 - The Truck Farmer’s Wife 41
  • 5 - Harpers Ferry 45
  • 6 - Incident at Copenhill 56
  • 7 - Pastor Proctor’s Sermon 63
  • 8 - Two Meetings and One Party 74
  • 9 - Low Dives and Blind Tigers 83
  • 10 - Celebration 90
  • 11 - A Visit from William Jennings Bryan 101
  • 12 - Orrie Bryan’s Story 106
  • 13 - "Extra! Extra!" 111
  • 14 - Rage 118
  • 15 - Fighting Back 131
  • 16 - Attack on Brownsville 139
  • 17 - Negotiations 145
  • 18 - What Happened to Max Barber 153
  • 19 - On Trial 159
  • 20 - Christmas Unease 166
  • Epilogue - Atlanta, 2006 171
  • Notes 177
  • Selected Bibliography 197
  • Index 203
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