April 1, 2014
Re: English Avenue School Historic Preservation Application
Subj: Oral Interview with Sgt George Loring Palmer
1. In the year 1951, why did the city convert the English Avenue public school (located at 627 English Avenue, NW, Atlanta, GA) from white to black? Was the neighborhood changing? Were there political pressures? How big was the outcry against the conversion, and why did the city proceed anyway? How did the conversion affect the community? Did it increase white flight? Did having a black school in the area help the black community?
During my Thursday, March 27 interview with Retired Sgt George Loring Palmer, he related the below information.
Sgt Palmer lived at 93 Chestnut, NW, Atlanta, GA. He lived in the Dixie Hill area with his parents. He was the second oldest of eight children. Initially Sgt Palmer attended E.R. Carter public school, which was the then ‘black’ elementary school. When English Avenue School became a ‘black’ elementary school in 1951 he attended English Avenue School. He started English Avenue School in 1951. He was 10 years old and was in fourth grade. He graduated from English Avenue School in 1954 when he was in seventh grade (At that time elementary school ended at 7 grade.) See attached copy of his 1954 Promotion Exercises.
Sgt Palmer walked 2.5-3 miles to and from his home to the English Avenue School everyday. He recalls that the area was all black at that time. Sgt Palmer assumes the school went from black to white because of ‘white flight.’ That is, once blacks (had early on) surrounded the school (purchased or leased area housing) the whites in the community fled.
The change that Sgt Palmer saw was that he was able to attend at the time a ‘state of the art’ school. It has an auditorium, cafeteria, and library. It was not over crowded. It was unlike his former ‘black’ school, E R Carter, which was separate and unequal (elementary school). When he attended E R Carter, it was so overcrowded that children attended the school in shifts– either in the morning or in the afternoon. Two children sat at one desk.
Having English Avenue School allowed black students to attend school all day instead of half days, and thus receive a better education. They could have plays in the auditorium. They had access to a library on the site because the public library, which was on the school campus was still ‘white only’, and thus not accessible to the black students and their families.
2. What role did the school play in the Civil Rights movement within Atlanta in the 1960s? What events unfolded surrounding the bombing? What is the community memory of the bombing?
Sgt Palmer was unaware of any role the school played in the Civil Rights movement. He left the school in 1954 and attended high school. He was in college during the Civil Rights movement. Nor was he familiar with the bombing and the impact that it had on the school.