Simply called Underground Atlanta, its history dates back to slavery. It’s not, as the name suggests, connected to the underground railroad. It was a place where black and white merchants sold goods.
The KIPP students were schooled on the history by Peter Bonner, a civil war and Atlanta historian. When we arrived, we walked along a long wide pedestrian bridge with shops and stores on both sides.
But below and underneath the bridge, there’s a large mall with more stores. But during slavery and prior to the civil war, there was no bridge. There was just the lower-level, which had much activity. But as Bonner pointed out, it wasn’t considered the lower level until more modern times. The “Underground” was ground level back then. The bridge was built years later.
Of the upper level, Bonner told the kids, “When people come here, they think this is the upstairs and below is the basement. But folk when they’re down here will tell you, ‘We’re at ground level and everything up there is the attic.'”
After his talk, the kids got to touch some of his artifacts, including a civil war gun. There were Union uniforms and hats, an Indiana-style Buffalo skins. Some of the students tried them on.
Brittney Ryan Edwards, 15, tried on a dress and jacket.
“I though it was pretty neat. We get to touch the stuff instead of it being enclosed in glass. I thought that was pretty cool. Since I was a little kid I always liked putting on those ‘ball’ dresses –the big dresses. I thought it would make me look more lady-like.”