unmonumentATL: Sheila Pree Bright

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For our unmonumentATL series, we asked 13 artists to share their personal un-monuments with our readers. From January 13 to 29, we will present one artist’s submission per day. And don’t miss Nick Kahler‘s incisive two-part essay on the subject. UnmonumentATL was conceived by former BURNAWAY editor Rachel Reese. 

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David T. Howard School
551 John Wesley Dobbs Ave
July 2013, on a hot summer morning, I headed to the neighborhood of Old Fourth Ward. As I traveled down a familiar road, I noticed light shining through a wrought iron fence, creating an illusion of vines. I was drawn to the brown brick architecture within the vinelike borders. The words on the building read, “David T. Howard Building.” Located at 551 John Wesley Dobbs Avenue, the empty building showed no traces of life. It was a moment frozen in time through my eyes, as described by French Philosopher and critic Roland Barthes in his essay “That-has-been.”
I knew there was something special about the presence of the structure that appeared abandoned. The David T. Howard Building was one of the early prominent schools where Civil Rights activists, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Lonnie King, and Herman Russell were educated during a time the country was divided racially. The grammar school opened in 1866 for children of free men of former slaves and was named after David T. Howard, who was one of the first black millionaires of Atlanta. Established in 1923, the school operated for 28 years in Old Fourth Ward with an all–African American faculty. The school closed in 1976.