Restoration honors Black Atlanta postmaster

ATLANTA (AP) — Most contractors told them they would tear it down. A five-bedroom, two-storey Victorian built around 1900, it has been abandoned and collapsed, with vines reaching its rafters. The elegant elements were recovered a long time ago. The house‘s place in American history was in danger of disappearing.

An Atlanta couple nevertheless purchased the property, hoping to fix it up and live there with their two children. Eventually, they found partners who also recognized the significance of the house built by early civil rights activist Luther Judson Price.

Kysha and Johnathan Hehn’s renovation plans took the next step when a neighbor connected them to “This Old House”. The PBS show chronicled their renovation in eight episodes to air Sept. 29, weaving black history with its usual home renovation advice.

“An old house that’s fallen into disrepair is our bread and butter,” show host Kevin O’Connor said before a scene involving an antique doorway. “But Kysha and Jonathan continue to amaze me with their determination that anyone who walks through the house is aware of the legacy.”

Born a slave to his plantation-owning father, Price was an early Clark College graduate who served as the federally appointed postmaster of South Atlanta, executive secretary of a Masonic order, and superintendent of the Methodist Episcopal Church of South Atlanta, while his wife, Atlanta University graduate Minnie Wright Price, “shared each of these positions with her husband”, according to their obituaries in the Atlanta Daily World.

Awards also led voter registration drives for African Americans and organized support for the Republican Party of his day, according to Atlanta Public Schools, which has a college named in his honor.

In the house, the Hehns now plan to create a community space on the ground floor where people will be welcomed for meetings, to share food and stories and learn about a family who tried to rule the South. to justice after the civil war.

The Prices married in 1889 and built the house several years later along a two-block stretch of Gammon Avenue, flanked by Gammon Theological Seminary and Price’s general store and post office. It was the hub of what was then called Brownsville, a rising community that thrived even as southern whites crushed federal efforts to help blacks emerge from the political, social and economic legacies of slavery. .

Then came a nightmare in September 1906, when a white mob that had killed at least 25 black people in downtown Atlanta and ransacked the area, chasing rumors that Price had supplied weapons to his neighbors.

“Can you imagine seeing this crowd of people coming towards you? Just imagine how your emotions would have been, with people coming to your home and neighborhood because of the color of your skin? Kysha Hehn said, shuddering at the trauma they must have felt.

Price was narrowly saved, remaining in the county jail for his own safety until the violence ended. “A lot of white people in Atlanta who had contact with him went out of their way to protect him,” said his grandson, Farrow Allen.

The massacre caused an exodus of black people from Atlanta, and those who remained were legally disenfranchised. While Luther and Minnie Price lived in the house until her death in 1936, their five children left Georgia, missing out on a chance at generational wealth through real estate. The house changed hands as the neighborhood declined, with its assessed value falling below $7,000 before the Hehns purchased it, according to tax records.

“The most gracious way to move forward is to be gentle and honest with the past, with pieces of our history that we cannot change, while moving forward with the intention of creating a more peaceful world. and more compassionate for everyone,” Kysha Hehn said.

A quick example: The Hehns urged the show’s producers to avoid saying “master bedroom,” given its connotations of slavery. O’Connor said they moved to “master bedrooms” some time ago.

And while they acknowledge the trauma, she said visitors should know “there were birthdays here. There were parties here. We lived in joy, even when it was not expected of us.

“Everyone has been so sweet and kind,” she added, describing how one couple came over and said, “Hey, we’ve got Luther Price’s fireplace, do you want it?” They had kept it in their nearby basement.

Another treasured find was the Ashanti symbol of “Sankofa” which they saw in wrought iron bars protecting a ground floor window.

“She is a bird looking forward, but her neck is stretching backwards and there is an egg on her back and the bird is picking up the egg, symbolizing how she carries the wisdom of the past and the passes on to young people,” Kysha Hehn said. “Having this symbol of Sankofa everywhere people gathered is just a dream for me.”

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Warren is a member of the AP’s Race and Ethnicity team.

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