In a small town in the farmlands of Southwest Georgia, we roast a delicious organic coffee called Sweet Auburn. Everyone loves the taste, but not everyone knows the story behind the name.
Some ten years ago, with our friend and long-time Cafe Campesino supporter Maria Moore-Riggs of Revolution Donuts, we had the opportunity to open a coffee house in the historic Sweet Auburn Curb Market. Despite our best efforts the shop never really took off, but our experience there was a valuable one. Since then the Sweet Auburn Blend has remained a favorite and has become one of our top selling coffees. The blend continues to be our homage to the historic Sweet Auburn neighborhood of Atlanta and to the people we met and know there.
The name “Sweet Auburn” itself came from John Wesley Dobbs, once upon a time the unofficial mayor of what he called “the richest Negro street in the world”. Known for many years as the spine of the city’s Black community, Sweet Auburn runs along and around Auburn Avenue in east Atlanta. While segregation was firmly cemented as the racial order, Black businesses thrived in Sweet Auburn. The success of this business district drew more African-Americans from outside the area, causing the budding community to flourish. Dobbs co-founded the Atlanta Negro Voters League, which helped get 20,000 local African Americans registered from 1936-1946. This new political power helped gain the hiring of the first eight African-American police officers in Atlanta. At 79, Dobbs died the same week that the Atlanta city schools were desegregated in 1961.
Over the years, Sweet Auburn grew to be a major center of African American culture in the city – and the South – known for music, religion, politics, and culture. The longest-running black newspaper in the U.S., the Atlanta Daily World, was launched in the area in 1928 and still operates today. Musicians Gladys Knight, Ray Charles, and Little Richard all cut their teeth in Sweet Auburn’s popular clubs, giving audiences sneak previews of the future of popular music.
The Ebenezer Baptist Church, founded in 1886, became the center of the modern Civil Rights Movement and is well known for its former head pastor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as for its current leader, and newly elected U.S. Senator, Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock. The neighborhood has few parallels in its prominence in Black life and overall contributions to Atlanta’s great history.
In the 1960s and immediately after, following several economic downturns, the neighborhood began to struggle with a lack of investment. This was exacerbated by the construction of the Downtown Connector freeway that split the neighborhood in half and raised an unnatural barrier to commerce and traffic flow. Sweet Auburn was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976, but by 2006, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation listed Sweet Auburn as a “Place In Peril.”. In recent years, re-investment has come in the form of gentrification that, while improving the overall economic outlook of the area, threatens its unique flavor and personality.
To honor the district we will be donating 10% of all February online sales of the Sweet Auburn blend to the King Center. Founded in 1968 by Mrs. Coretta Scott King, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (“The King Center”) has inspired and educated millions of visitors who come to The Center to learn about Dr. King’s work and vision. We salute Sweet Auburn for all of its incredible history and for its contributions to the rich culture of the state of Georgia and to the entire country.