Atlanta, Georgia: Art and Americana in Sweet Auburn

In October 2016, a Nashville friend mentioned she was house-sitting for a few weeks for her brother in Atlanta, Georgia. Since I’d never been to Atlanta, I promptly invited myself to stay with her for the weekend, and we spent two days exploring this amazing city. I didn’t really have any idea of what Atlanta looked like, and I didn’t do much trip prep, so I was blown away by how cool and beautiful the city was.

These photos are from the Sweet Auburn neighborhood, mostly from Edgewood Ave SE, which was covered in gorgeous street art and murals. My favorite was the detailed statement piece, “Education is Not a Crime,” pictured in the first photo on this post. Take a sec to open the image in a new tab and zoom in. It’s a powerful visual essay on the way African American history is sanitized into a single paragraph in textbooks. You can learn more about the mural and the artists here and here.

This is a very important part of Atlanta’s political and cultural history: “The Sweet Auburn Historic District is a historic African-American neighborhood along and surrounding Auburn Avenue, east of downtown Atlanta, Georgia, United States. The name Sweet Auburn was coined by John Wesley Dobbs, referring to the ‘richest Negro street in the world,’ one of the largest concentrations of African-American businesses in the United States. A National Historic Landmark District was designated in 1976, covering 19 acres (7.7 ha) of the neighborhood, significant for its history and development as a segregated area under the state’s Jim Crow laws” (via Wikipedia). It’s in this neighborhood that Martin Luther King Jr was born and grew up. It’s also in this neighborhood that Coretta Scott King built The King Center, where both she and her husband are now buried.

[35mm taken with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000.]

Natchez Trace Parkway (Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee)

After almost a week in Alabama and Louisiana–including a day in Lafayette, Louisiana, and a night spent on a houseboat Airbnb on the Vermillion River, none of which I seem not to have photographed–a we rounded off our amazing 2016 Southern Road Trip with a two day drive up the Natchez Trace Parkway, starting in Jackson Mississippi, spending the night in Tupelo (birthplace of Elvis Presley), crossing through a corner of Alabama, and finishing up only 30 minutes from Nashville. 

What was so neat about driving through 400 miles of this pristine strip of parkland was how drastically the landscape changed from start to finish. I’d love to spend more time on the Parkway one day and go all the way to its end in Natchez, Mississippi.

 [35mm taken with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. For more photos of my 2016 roadtrip through the South, click here.]

Whitney Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana

Among the beautiful preserved plantation homes you can visit in the greater New Orleans area, Whitney Plantation stands out. You don’t go there to marvel at the lavish lives of the slave holding white upper class. You don’t go to enjoy period architecture. You go to learn about the brutalities of slavery in the only plantation museum in Louisiana that focuses on the lives of the people enslaved, not the slave-holders.

“In 2014, the Whitney Plantation opened its doors to the public for the first time in its 262 year history as the only plantation museum in Louisiana with a focus on slavery.

Through museum exhibits, memorial artwork and restored buildings and hundreds of first-person slave narratives, visitors to Whitney will gain a unique perspective on the lives of Louisiana’s enslaved people.” (via the website)

I’ll include some videos at the end of this post to help you understand just how unique this is, but I will say that after two hours in the 90+ degree Louisiana sun learning about the horrors of slavery, I felt like I could have gone on another tour. Our guide was bold and unafraid to make strong statements about the realities of America’s first few hundred years. It was an incredibly powerful experience, and I would urge you to visit if you ever get the chance. You will not walk out the same. This place is not only a museum, but a memorial to the what we have done. In Germany, there are memorials to the Holocaust all over. But in the US, we don’t have memorials to slavery. Instead we have monuments to the people who fought to keep African Americans enslaved. The Whitney Plantation is doing something about this.

I can’t embed it, but I highly recommend this video about the Whitney Plantation from the New Yorker. You can also learn more about the museum from NPRNational GeographicThe AtlanticThe Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times.


[35mm taken with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. For more photos of my 2016 roadtrip through the South, click here.]

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Louisiana


There are six separate sites outside New Orleans that make up Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. The one we went to had a great boardwalk through the swamp. There was almost no none there, and we spotted a cute baby gator sunning himself on the path. It was hot and steamy, but well worth the heat to enjoy the gorgeous swamp.













[35mm taken with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. For more photos of my 2016 roadtrip through the South, click here.]

Honey Island Swamp Tour in Slidell, Louisiana

New Orleans itself was ok. Beautiful in its own way, but not one of my favorite places so far. However, the areas outside the city that we explored were spectacular. We had a blast taking a swamp tour in Slidell. We went with Dr. Wagner’s Original Honey Island Swamp Tours, and the guide was great. We saw alligators and a cajun village and actually learned a lot. The swamp itself was spectacular. Louisiana nature was so unlike anywhere else I’ve been.

 [35mm taken with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. For more photos of my 2016 roadtrip through the South, click here.]

New Orleans, Louisiana


After a day in the sun and swamp on Dauphin Island, Alabama, we drove into New Orleans, where we would spend three rainy days exploring the city. We did get out of the French Quarter a number of times, but as cool as it was, NOLA didn’t really inspire me to go out of my way to take pictures.



























[35mm taken with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. For more photos of my 2016 roadtrip through the South, click here.]

Dauphin Island on the Alabama Gulf Coast


Dauphin Island was a great surprise on our roadtrip through the South last year. We had considered going to Gulf Shores or another beach along the Gulf Coast; I’d never been to the Gulf Coast, and it was on the way. But neither of us really like your standard day-at-the-beach beach. A co-worker instead recommended we spend the day on Dauphin Island (pronounced “dolphin” island by a lot of people I talked to about it.


I would definitely go back again, given the chance. One part of the island had a beach-vacation community vibe, with houses on stilts and people riding bikes to and from the marina along sleepy streets. But then there was also the stunning Audubon Sanctuary, where we wandered through gorgeous swampy nature along boardwalks until the forest dissolved into a beautiful white sand beach. There were only a few other people within sight on the beach. We waded in for a bit until our poor pale skin started to overheat and we needed to retreat to the shade (where it was still ridiculously hot and mugggy, I should add).


There is also a civil-war era fort and a nature center on the island, although we didn’t have the time to go in either. We also didn’t spot any alligators, sadly, even though there are supposed to be a fair number living in the Sanctuary.







[35mm taken with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. For more photos of my 2016 roadtrip through the South, click here.]