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Cascade Heights is an affluent predominantly African-American neighborhood in southwest Atlanta. Along with Sandtown and other portions of unincorporated South Fulton County, the area has a reputation as having a high concentration of the African-American elite in the city.
Cascade Heights, or simply Cascade, can refer to a large area that is bound by I-20, on the north, I-285 on the west, South Utoy Creek on the south, and the Adams Park and Beecher Hills neighborhoods to the east. By this definition, this area also includes neighborhoods such as Peyton Forest, West Manor, and Mangum Manor to name a few. This situation can be paralleled to Midtown's role in Northeast Atlanta; each neighborhood is separate and distinct but the area is still known by one generic name.
Blockbusting and the Peyton Road barricades
In the early 1960s the area was a predominantly white neighborhood. After an African American physician bought a home in Peyton Forest, white residents in the area feared that their neighborhood would become a victim of blockbusting, a business practice in which real estate agents would profit from the racial fears of white residents while changing the racial makeup of a white residential area. When African-Americans moved in to a neighborhood, their presence resulted in lower residential property values because many whites considered an integrated neighborhood to be undesirable. Real estate agents stirred up racial tension and benefited from the commissions they earned when fearful homeowners sold their properties, often at a loss, in order to escape the area.
In a 1962–1963 episode that came to be called "the Peyton Road affair", Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen responded to residents' fears of blockbusting by directing city staff to erect barricades on Peyton Road and Harlan Road to restrict access to Cascade Heights, thus preventing African American homeseekers from getting to the neighborhood from Gordon Road. He took the action at the urging of white residents of southwest Atlanta (in particular, one of his high-level employees who lived a short distance from Peyton Road). After the barricades went up, December 18, 1962, the incident quickly drew national attention. The barrier was compared to the Berlin wall and nicknamed the "Atlanta wall". Some newspapers in other parts of the country questioned Atlanta's motto "the City Too Busy to Hate." The walls were torn down when, on March 1, 1963, a court ruled them to be unconstitutional. This event is considered[by whom?] to have helped spur the growth and prominence of Collier Heights, the first affluent community in the nation built by and for African-Americans.
Affluent African American neighborhood
White homeowners fled the neighborhood after the barricades were removed. By the end of July 1963, only 15 white homeowners remained in Peyton Forest.
By the late 1960s the Cascade Heights neighborhood was predominantly African-American and it remained relatively affluent.
In recent decades[when?], the larger Cascade area has been expanding westward with new subdivisions and shopping centers. It resembles any other upper-middle-class suburb, with the exception being that nearly all of its residents are African-American.
Notable residents of Cascade Heights include: former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin, baseball legend Hank Aaron, former UN Ambassador and mayor of Atlanta Andrew Young, and past national president of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and founding member of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Ozell Sutton, Dr. Howard W. Grant, current Executive Director/Administrator of the Atlanta Board of Education, and Kandi Burruss, singer/songwriter, record producer, and cast member of The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
- Ernie Suggs and Tom Benett, "Former Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. dead at age 92; Mayor helped city bridge racial divide", Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Legacy.com), retrieved January 10, 2012
- Paul Crater (December 2011), "49 Years Ago This Month: Atlanta's "Berlin Wall"; December 1962", Atlanta Magazine
- Tammy H. Galloway (2010), "Ivan Allen Jr. (1911–2003)", The New Georgia Encyclopedia
- "Remaining Walls", Ebony, June 1963: 24–25
- "The South: Divided City", Time Magazine, January 18, 1963
- Sacred places: a guide to the civil rights sites in Atlanta, Georgia. p. 159.
- White flight: Atlanta and the making of modern conservatism. p. 5.