Midtown Atlanta has long served as the Southeastern hub for LGBTQ life and activism. Despite immense changes in both skyline and demographic, Midtown remains home to many of Atlanta’s queer community and will play host to the annual Atlanta Pride Parade and Festival this month – as it has since 1971.
Midtown’s LGBT History
The energy that followed the Stonewall riots of 1969 influenced the hippies, progressives, and queer activists who moved into Midtown in large numbers, setting the neighborhood on a path to becoming Atlanta’s LGBT safe haven for decades. In the 1970s, swaths of Peachtree Street and Piedmont Avenue were dotted with restaurants, bars and clubs that catered to the gay community. But it wasn’t until the mid 1980s, when Blake’s opened at 10th Street and Peachtree, that Atlanta gained on of the first LGBT bars to have windows and a front door.
A street view of Peachtree Street in 1970 shows the drag club Club Centaur. | Photo by Robert Connell, AJC FILE
In addition to nightlife, Midtown was home to businesses and nonprofits that helped Atlanta’s queer community through adversity. The Atlanta Gay Center opened in 1976 in Midtown and provided health, legal and social services for LGBT people. A decade later, when AIDS had ravaged the country and community, a candlelight vigil was held at the Midtown Academy of Medicine
to honor and grieve those affected by the disease. In fact, Midtown is the birthplace of AID Atlanta
, the city’s first and largest provider of HIV/AIDS services and education.
Midtown Alliance and the Movement
Our own Philip Rafshoon, Director of Member Engagement at Midtown Alliance, has lived in Midtown since 2001 and has been active in the LGBT community as the owner and operator of Outwrite Bookstore which opened in 1993. The bookstore and coffeehouse, which moved to 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue in 1996, created a place for LGBT patrons to get a wide array of literature and meet debut and world-famous authors, artists, and musicians from the queer and queer ally community. Over its almost 20 years in operation, Outwrite became the unofficial community center for LGBT Atlantans, giving Rafshoon a unique perspective into the evolution of the Midtown urban district.
“Midtown has been the heart of LGBTQ Atlanta for decades because of so many Midtown pioneers,” Rafshoon said. “While Atlanta’s LGBT community is now dispersed throughout the metro area, Midtown is still a diverse and inclusive community today and remains home to many LGBTQ residents, establishments and organizations.”
Today’s Atlanta measures above the national average in population of LGBT people, ranking as the 19th most LGBT-dense U.S. city, according to a Gallup poll. Increased social acceptance has dispersed – but not decreased – the Atlanta LGBT community beyond Midtown, but for many, Midtown remains the historical and symbolic core of Atlanta Pride.