Source: "Film of Atlanta Gas Light by Fred Neeley, 1965." Atlanta Gas Light collection, 1957-1989. Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Collection. The University of Georgia Libraries. Click here for source material.
As early as 1900, black families in Athens, Georgia began to settle on Peabody Street and Lyndon Row in a 20 acre area bordered by Baxter Street, South Finely Street, and Church Street. By 1960, the community grew to fifty families. With Hot Corner right down the street, it was a burgeoning and stable black community. The neighborhood was home also to a prominent school called the Jeruel Academy/Union Institute. Without any official name of record, 'Linnentown' or sometimes 'Lyndontown,' as the community called itself, was a place where black families were beginning to build up wealth and assets through stable (albeit low paying) jobs and property ownership. Skilled members of the community included plumbers, electricians, beauticians and brick masons. They were laying bricks for a black middle class. That is, until it was razed by the University of Georgia and the City of Athens
"Urban Renewal means Negro Removal." - James Baldwin
In 1962, with the support of the City of Athens and elected officials like United States Senator Richard B. Russell, the University won a federal contract through the Federal Urban Renewal Program to demolish Linnentown--'slum clearance' as it was called. After the properties were condemned, the City forced families to move. Some ended up in public housing, while others spread out across the City. Through eminent domain, Linnentown properties were seized for as little as $2000. The City and University accumulated the wealth-building assets of this community. They tokenized black Athenians and searched bank accounts, life insurance plans, and payroll records without consent. The University demolished houses through controlled burns before homeowners' very eyes. The University orchestrated the removal of this black community so that it could erect the currently existing 'luxury' dormitories Brumby, Russell, and Creswell Hall. By 1966, the "University of Georgia Urban Renewal Program," or Project GA R-50, erased all physical traces of this community. We are left with only a historical marker for the Jeruel Academy. No written history of Linnentown exists. Neither the City of Athens nor the University of Georgia has been held accountable for their collective act against Linnentown.