The Center’s Truth and Transformation Initiative empowers communities to confront hidden history, correct incomplete narratives, and build a more equitable future.  

ATLANTA, Sept. 1, 2023 – The National Center for Civil and Human Rights (The Center) will mark the 117th anniversary of the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre with a moving series of events designed to commemorate the past, illuminate the present, and foster a more equitable future. 

Annually marking the third week of September is an integral part of The Center’s Truth and Transformation Initiative. The initiative emboldens communities to confront neglected and painful history – by creating memorials, commemorative events, and educational resources – to establish shared truths as a critical foundation for healing.  

The 117th anniversary commemoration begins September 18 with a solemn vigil at the Henry Grady Statue to honor massacre victims. During the massacre, the mob stacked bodies at the base of the segregationist newspaper editor’s statue. Attendees will read the names of known victims including two people newly verified as casualties of the massacre through research by initiative partners: the Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project and the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society of Metro Atlanta. Truth and Transformation has submitted the newly verified names to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) to include in its National Memorial of Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL.  

The commemoration continues September 22 – 24 with: 

  • The premiere of “(Re)Defining History: Uncovering the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre” at the Gathering Spot, a documentary co-produced by The Center and WABE and hosted by noted historian Dr. Maurice Hobson, that delves into the massacre’s hidden history and significance in Atlanta.  
  • A powerful conversation with descendants of white and Black families impacted by the massacre immediately following the documentary premiere. Patricia Walker Bearden and Yolanda Walker Simmons are the granddaughters of Alex Walker, who was convicted of the killing of county police officer James Heard. They will talk with Preston Heard, the grandnephew of James Heard. Facilitated by Melvin Bray, this conversation offers a unique opportunity to hear descendants’ stories about the complicated legacy of the atrocity.  
  • An engaging dinner and theatrical experience at The Center, developed by Equitable Dinners and Out of Hand Theater, will immerse participants into a reflective exploration of current race relations in Atlanta. Throughout the weekend, Equitable Dinners will recreate this experience for 1,000 people at 100 tables across metro Atlanta homes, places of worship, businesses, and schools.  

For more information and ticket reservations, visit 

“Facing difficult history with honesty and integrity is vital to building a more just future,” said Darrin Sims, director of the Truth and Transformation Initiative. “We work with communities to reach a fuller understanding of the past and the lingering inequities that stem from decades of systemic discrimination. Our truth telling approach builds empathy for people harmed by that past, illuminates pathways for reconciliation, and inspires communities to reimagine how to redress inequalities going forward.” 

The initiative focuses on overlooked chapters in Atlanta’s post-Reconstruction era history of racial terror – the brutal practice of convict leasing at the Chattahoochee Brick Company and Bellwood Quarry, and the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre: a dark chapter characterized by four days of white mob violence that killed at least 25 Black individuals with the goal of erasing Black progress. Those 25 lives were among 500 lynchings in Georgia from the 1880s to the 1950s, as documented by EJI.  

“We seek to tell deeper stories of these individuals, identify their descendants, and establish dignified memorials for their sacrifices. Acknowledging the generational trauma from racial terror and forced labor, we also honor the resilience of Atlanta’s Black community. Following the massacre, dedicated citizens revitalized Auburn Avenue into a beacon of Black success, inspiring future civil rights leaders,” said Sims.  

Essential to the initiative’s work are its extensive partnerships with faith and civic leaders, historians, and grass roots organizations like the Fulton County Remembrance Coalition (FCRC) and the Coalition to Remember the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre (The Coalition), who have been instrumental in organizing commemorations since the massacre’s centennial in 2006.  

Partners offer opportunities for the public to commemorate and examine the impact of the massacre including the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre: Community Symposium, September 23 at the Auburn Avenue Research Library. September 24 at Sumner Park, community volunteers, the City of East Point, and the FCRC will beautify the marker honoring the life of Zeb Long, a massacre victim.  

Since launching in 2021, Truth and Transformation has reached significant milestones: 

  • The initiative successfully advocated for changing the name of the Atlanta Race Riot to the more accurate “Atlanta Race Massacre,” gaining support from local and state media, educational, and cultural organizations including the Atlanta History Center, the Georgia Humanities Council, the Georgia Historical Society, and the New Georgia Encyclopedia.  
  • Observing the massacre’s 116th anniversary in 2022, the initiative and Equitable Dinners convened 5,000 individuals at 500 tables across metro Atlanta, facilitating scores of profound conversations on racial terror’s legacy.  

“As we approach our tenth year as a cultural and rights organization, we are uniquely positioned to lead this transformative work during a time of national polarization, where education and democracy are at risk,” said Jill Savitt, The Center’s president and CEO. “Truth and Transformation embodies our mission to create a more just and equitable world, inspiring people to tap their power to promote and protect human rights. We are excited to extend the initiative’s impact as part of our institutional-wide expansion in 2024, by designing curricula for schools and organizations to take our truth sharing model to their communities.” 

About the National Center for Civil and Human Rights 

The Center, founded in 2014, is a museum and human rights educational institution located in Atlanta, GA, the cradle of civil rights. We create dynamic and empathy-building experiences, teach history’s connection to the present, generate brave and difficult conversations about necessary issues, and inspire the change-maker in each of us to promote civil and human rights in our communities and the world. The Center connects the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s to global human rights movements for the rights of people of color, women, immigrants, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ people, and other marginalized groups. Through our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative, the Campaign for Equal Dignity, the LGBTQ Institute, expansive educational offerings, and immersive and engaging storytelling we inspire each of us to reflect and think critically, exercise empathy in action, and create positive change locally and globally. For more information about The Center, visit our website at Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – @ctr4chr, and LinkedIn at  


Media Contact: 

James Richards, Communications Director 

[email protected]