Auburn Avenue: The Royal Peacock

© Atlanta Journal-Constitution
USA near Atlanta

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phpy published on 09/20/2021 6:51 p.m.:

Peacock club then (1988) and now (2021).
Opened originally in 1938 as the “Top Hat Club”, it was an immediate hit within the African American community. Former circus performer, Carrie Cunningham, bought and rebranded the club as the “Royal Peacock” in the late 40s which resulted the club becoming even more popular. The club was decorated with colorful painting of peacock feathers. Advertisements even boasted that the club was bringing Harlem to Atlanta. Like the many stores around it, the Royal Peacock then became a black-owned business. The impact that African Americans musicians had on the cultural influence on both the black and white communities of Atlanta is an integral part of Atlanta’s African American history. In a town where segregation was rampant, places like the Royal Peacock can be considered outliers in the best possible way—championing black pride and increasing cultural diversity.
Some very prominent figures to have visited the once vibrant club include Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Louis Armstrong. Experiences in this club were of elite level—people would be decked to the nines and enjoy the music. It was a classy and fancy space that everyone wanted to go to. Because the club attracted such famous performers, white audiences would often frequent the club. In fact, this would happen so much that the club owners felt it necessary to have designated “whites only” nights. Despite their being such a high demand for them amongst the white audiences, black musicians still felt oppression and blatant racism while visiting. Oftentimes needing to be snuck in through the back door of the club or even refused entry. The Royal Peacock was the first place that eventually openly welcomed black artists to perform in front of mixed audiences. In fact, the Royal Peacock and very few other clubs around the nation were deemed the “Chitlin Circuit”. To play as a black artist at one of the venues on the circuit meant that you were able to tour the South safely. The Royal Peacock was the first and most notable club for doing this.

Nearby before-and-after pictures

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