Home Heard Around Atlanta Atlanta’s First African American Park Marks Its Centennial

Atlanta’s First African American Park Marks Its Centennial

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Longtime Washington Park coach William Fulton, aka Coach Wink, at Serve & Connect.
Longtime Washington Park coach William Fulton, aka Coach Wink, at Serve & Connect.

Throughout the past year, the Washington Park Conservancy celebrated the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Washington Park and shared the park’s history with the many generations of local residents who have called the park their own. The group’s focus is to improve and uplift the quality of life for the entire neighborhood through advocacy efforts. Each month, the Conservancy invited residents and the wider community to join them for events and programs aimed at celebrating this historic landmark.

Heman Perry, a successful black insurance executive, donated the park’s first acres on the west side of Atlanta in 1917. Construction began on the park two years later. According to the Conservancy, many of the homes and civic institutions in the Washington Park community were designed and built by black architects and contractors for the families relocating to the neighborhood. This was during a time when they otherwise had been denied professional licensure, and therefore denied commissions to work in other parts of Atlanta. By the middle of the 20th century, Washington Park was recognized as a strong and thriving neighborhood for the city’s black middle class.

Since 1932, the tennis courts in Washington Park have played a crucial role in bringing the community together. “It’s important for people to understand that was the only place that black people [then] could legally play tennis in the city of Atlanta for a long time,” said CJ Jackson, chair of Conservancy. The park is home to a large, state-of-the-art tennis center with eight fully lit tennis courts and stadium seating. The tennis center, led by William Fulton, affectionately known as “Coach Wink,” offers a wide range of programs for tennis players of all ages and abilities, including youth, adults, and senior clinics. In 2019, there were eight ALTA teams that called the park home, including Men, Sunday Women, Mixed, Senior Women, and Senior Mixed.

Washington Park also plays host each year to the Serve & Connect program, which brings together local police officers and the city’s youth for mentorship and education.