This Old House: Restoration honors Black Atlanta postmaster

Sep 6, 2022, 3:13 PM | Updated: Sep 7, 2022, 4:40 am
This Old House" host Kevin O'Connor records the home improvement show in Atlanta on Aug. 10, 2022. ...

This Old House" host Kevin O'Connor records the home improvement show in Atlanta on Aug. 10, 2022. An Atlanta couple is restoring the Victorian home of civil rights activist Luther Judson Price. (AP Photo/Michael Warren)

(AP Photo/Michael Warren)

ATLANTA (AP) — Most contractors told them they would tear it down. A two-story five-bedroom Victorian built around 1900, it was abandoned and collapsing, with vines reaching its rafters. Elegant features were scavenged long ago. The house’s place in American history was at risk of disappearing.

An Atlanta couple bought the property nevertheless, hoping to fix it up and live there with their two children. Eventually they found partners who also recognized the importance of the house built by early civil rights activist Luther Judson Price.

Kysha and Johnathan Hehn’s renovation plans shifted to fast-forward when a neighbor connected them with “This Old House.” The PBS show chronicled their renovation in eight episodes to stream Sept. 29, weaving Black history in with its usual home improvement tips.

“An old house that has fallen into disrepair is our bread and butter,” the show’s host, Kevin O’Connor, said before a scene involving an antique door. “But Kysha and Jonathan continue to surprise me with their determination that anyone who walks through the house is aware of the legacy.”

Born enslaved by his plantation owner-father, Price was an early Clark College graduate who served as the federally appointed postmaster of South Atlanta, executive secretary of a Masonic order and superintendent of the South Atlanta Methodist Episcopal Church, while his wife, Minnie Wright Price, a graduate of Atlanta University, “shared each of these positions with her husband,” according to their obituaries in the Atlanta Daily World.

The Prices also led voter registration drives for African Americans and organized support for the Republican Party of their time, according to the Atlanta Public Schools, which has a middle school named in his honor.

In the house, the Hehns now plan to create a community space downstairs where people will be welcomed for meetings, to share food and stories and learn about a family that tried to point the South toward justice after the Civil War.

The Prices married in 1889 and built the home several years later along a two-block stretch of Gammon Avenue, flanked by the Gammon Theological Seminary and Price’s general store and post office. It was the hub of what was then called Brownsville, an upwardly mobile community that prospered even as Southern whites crushed federal efforts to help Black people rise from slavery’s political, social and economic legacy.

Then came a nightmare in September 1906, when a white mob that had killed at least 25 Black people in downtown Atlanta ransacked the area, chasing rumors that Price had supplied his neighbors with weapons.

“Can you imagine seeing this mob of people coming toward you? Just imagine what your emotions would have been, with people coming to your house and neighborhood because of the color of your skin?” said Kysha Hehn, shuddering at the trauma they must have felt.

Price was narrowly rescued, staying at the county jail for his own safety until the violence ended. “A lot of white people in Atlanta who had contact with him went out of their way to protect him,” said his grandson, Farrow Allen.

The massacre prompted an exodus of Black people from Atlanta, and those who stayed were legally disenfranchised. While Luther and Minnie Price lived in the home until his death in 1936, their five children left Georgia, missing a chance at generational wealth through real estate. The home changed hands as the neighborhood declined, its assessed value falling below $7,000 before the Hehns bought it, tax records show.

“The most graceful way to move forward is to be gentle and honest with the past, with pieces of our history that we cannot change, while moving forward with the intention of creating a more peaceful and compassionate world for everyone,” Kysha Hehn said.

One small example: The Hehns urged the show’s producers to avoid saying “master bedroom,” given its connotations of slavery. O’Connor said they made the switch to “primary bedrooms” a while ago.

And while they’ll acknowledge the trauma, she said visitors should know “there were birthdays here. There were celebrations here. We lived in joy, even when that was not what was expected for us to do.”

“Everyone has been so kind and nice,” she added, describing how one couple came over and said “Hey, we have Luther Price’s mantlepiece, do you want it?” They had been keeping it in their basement nearby.

Another cherished discovery was the Ashanti symbol of “Sankofa” they saw in wrought-iron bars protecting a downstairs window.

“It’s a bird that’s facing forward, but its neck is craning backward and there’s an egg on its back and the bird is picking up the egg, symbolizing how she’s carrying the wisdom of the past and bringing it forward to the youth,” Kysha Hehn said. “To have this symbol of Sankofa all around where people gathered is just a dream for me.”

___

Warren is a member of the AP’s Race and Ethnicity team.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Pope Francis leaves after the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St.Pete...
Associated Press

Pope appeals to Putin to end ‘spiral of violence’ in Ukraine

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Sunday appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, imploring him to “stop this spiral of violence and death” in Ukraine and denounced the “absurd” risk to humanity of catastrophic nuclear war as tensions escalate. Francis uttered his strongest plea yet on the seventh-month war as he addressed the public […]
1 day ago
Mattresses lie on the floor in a holding cell at the basement of a police station which was used by...
Associated Press

10 torture sites in 1 town: Russia sowed pain, fear in Izium

IZIUM, Ukraine (AP) — The first time the Russian soldiers caught him, they tossed him bound and blindfolded into a trench covered with wooden boards for days on end. Then they beat him, over and over: Legs, arms, a hammer to the knees, all accompanied by furious diatribes against Ukraine. Before they let him go, […]
1 day ago
A protester takes down the Iranian flag on the ground of the Iranian embassy during the global prot...
Associated Press

Swiss police violently disperses anti-Iranian protests

BERLIN (AP) — Swiss police used rubber bullets to disperse protesters in front of the Iranian Embassy in Bern after two men climbed over the embassy’s fence and pulled down the Iranian flag from a flag pole in the yard. Police said late Saturday that nobody was injured and that the “large crowd” of protesters […]
1 day ago
Britain's Prime Minister Liz Truss arrives to attend the Conservative Party conference at the ICC, ...
Associated Press

UK’s Truss sticks by economic plan as her party worries

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Liz Truss said Sunday that she could have done a better job “laying the ground” for her package of unfunded tax cuts, but insisted she would push on with an economic plan that has caused turmoil on financial markets and weakened the country’s public finances. Truss acknowledged that the […]
1 day ago
Latvian Prime Minister and Head of board of leading political party Jauna Vienotiba (New Unity) Kri...
Associated Press

Latvian premier’s party emerges on top in general election

HELSINKI (AP) — Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins’ ruling center-right party won the most votes in Latvia’s general election, centrist parties were runners-up and pro-Moscow parties crashed in a vote that was shaped by neighboring Russia’s war in Ukraine and divisions among the Baltic country’s sizable ethnic Russian minority. With almost all votes counted, initial results […]
1 day ago
Ukrainian servicemen drive a tank on the way to Siversk, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Saturday, Oct. 1,...
Associated Press

Ukraine presses counteroffensive after Russian setback

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia attacked the Ukrainian president’s hometown and other targets with suicide drones on Sunday, and Ukraine took back full control of a strategic eastern city in a counteroffensive that has reshaped the war. Russia’s loss of Lyman, which it had been using as a transport and logistics hub, is a new […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
This Old House: Restoration honors Black Atlanta postmaster