Discovery: Long History of Lantern Parades in Atlanta


How can it be that we have been doing lantern parades in Atlanta for ten years and have just found out that Atlanta has a long history of lantern parades?

In 1887, the wheelmen were planning a bicycle lantern parade for the Piedmont exposition. "A bicycle is picturesque when dressed with lanterns." Candle-lit lanterns on bicycles!

In 1893, “The wheelmen, with every lantern lit went out Peachtree to Pine . . .”

In 1940, five-hundred children made a "living flag" with lanterns in Grant Field.

By 1948, eight-thousand folks came to see a thousand children in the Annual Piedmont Park Lantern Parade. They paraded around the lake with twenty lantern floats in the lake!

In 1950, Decatur had a lantern parade! Decatur's starts at McKoy Park swimming pool and by 1952 it is marching downtown.

The lantern parades were created through the Park's youth craft program in white recreation centers and playgrounds. In 1954, there was "a similar parade for negroes" in Washington Park. The last article about the lantern parades we see here is 1960. Atlanta schools were desegregated in 1961.

Atlanta has a history of segregated lantern parades. Wow.

Anyone who has ever read anything about the history of Atlanta knows about segregation in Atlanta. But it is still hard to read about segregated lantern parades.

When I proposed a lantern parade to the Krewe for us to then apply for Art on the Beltline, my hope was for Atlanta to have a New Orleans-styled parade culture but in a form that was unique to Atlanta, where everyone is always invited to make a lantern and walk in the parade. I am glad we have a solid decade of inclusive Atlanta lantern parade history upon discovering a twenty-year history of segregated Atlanta lantern parades.

The articles here are posted in chronological order. Keep scrolling. We would love to know more. There must be folks in Atlanta who remember the Atlanta lantern parades of the 1950's. Talk to your parents and report back.

Thank you, Katie Dunabaum for this research.

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