The Center in the News: Truth and Transformation Commemorates the 117th Anniversary of the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre 

Since 2021, The Center’s Truth and Transformation Initiative has commemorated the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre as a pillar of its mission to help communities confront painful history. This year, the initiative created powerful events that established a new standard for examining the massacre’s impact and delivered authentic moments for reflection and transformation.

Events garnered considerable national, state, and local media interest especially a New York Times feature story for its Across the Country series: “In a ‘City Too Busy to Hate,’ New Attention to an Overlooked Race Massacre,” by Rick Rojas, The Times’ Southeast bureau chief. 

Notable local coverage included Axios Atlanta, WABE-FM’s Morning Edition, and Atlanta broadcast news stations: WANF – CBS, Atlanta News First; WSB – ABC, Channel 2 Action News; and WXIA – NBC, 11Alive News.

The week began September 18 with a moving vigil to honor victims of the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre. The vigil drew a supportive crowd at the Henry Grady statue on Marietta Street, where scholars say bodies were stacked during the four-day massacre. Research partners the Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project at Emory University and the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society identified two new names of the 25 lives lost. Activists say the vigil represents a notable milestone in the effort to uncover the truth about the atrocity 117 years ago.  

Friday September 22, marking the first day of the 1906 massacre, Truth and Transformation premiered a new documentary “(Re)Defining History” at the Black-owned Gathering Spot. The Center produced the film about the impact of the massacre with Atlanta PBS / NPR station, WABE.

Following the screening, Black and white descendants of families impacted by the massacre met for the first time to discuss the legacy of the atrocity. The guided conversation demonstrated that honest dialogues about difficult history could be transformative.

The commemoration closed September 24 with an engaging theatrical experience at The Center developed by Equitable Dinners and Out of Hand Theater, to immerse participants in a reflective exploration of current race relations in Atlanta. Throughout the weekend, Equitable Dinners recreated this experience for 1,000 people at 100 tables across metro Atlanta homes, places of worship, businesses, and schools.  

“We want to build on the positive community response to our events this year,” said Darrin Sims, Truth and Transformation director. “By establishing a permanent annual commemoration of the massacre, we can help Atlantans see a deeper story of the people involved and clarify the atrocity’s impact on the lingering inequalities the city faces today. We remain committed to discovering all we can to honor those killed until every victim and descendant is identified and their stories can be told.”

The initiative’s work continues on Atlanta’s westside to memorialize the historically brutal practice of convict leasing that shaped our community.