Feb. 2, 1896: James Tate, born a slave in Elberton County, was a successful Auburn Avenue merchant by 1896. During the 1860s, after settling in Atlanta, he became an entrepreneur and is regarded by many as a major innovator of successful black business in Atlanta. At his death in 1897, Tate was buried in historic Oakland Cemetery. An interpretive bronze relief of Tate’s image by sculptor Brian R. Owens is located on Auburn Avenue, west of Courtland Street. It was created in 1996 as a Corporation for Olympic Development in Atlanta project.
Feb. 5, 1913: The will of Sue Harper Mims, founder of Atlanta’s Christian Science community, was filed for probation. Her bequeath from the sale of personal jewelry made possible the creation of the Sidney Lanier Monument unveiled in Piedmont Park on April 10, 1915. New York sculptor Edward Clark Potter, under the direction of Mary Day Lanier the poet’s wife, molded the bronze bust. New York’s Carrère & Hastings designed the Tennessee marble base and inscribed the opening of Lanier’s “Centennial Meditation of Columbia.” It remained in its niche in Piedmont Park until threats of vandalism occurred in 1996. Then Oglethorpe University, Lanier’s alma mater—class of 1860—became the caretaker. On Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012 the 3 p.m. rededication celebration will return Georgia’s poet back to Piedmont Park. The public is invited to this free event made possible through the partnership of the Atlanta Preservation Center, Piedmont Park Conservancy and Oglethorpe University. For more information, call (404)688-3353.
Feb. 13, 1911: Madame Sissieretta Jones, known as “The Black Patti,” performed at Atlanta’s Central Theater in a production titled A Trip to Africa. It was her eighth tour to the city. The reputation of her phenomenal voice preceded her Atlanta Grand Opera House premiere in January 1895. During her career years —1888 to 1915—she sang for Presidents Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. She also played Carnegie Hall four times. Madame Jones disliked “The Black Patti” moniker – a theatrical journal’s dub – but comparison to Adelina Patti, the Italian-American prima donna, sold tickets and nurtured opportunity. Her final Atlanta bow was on Marietta Street at the Orpheum. “Whether Sissieretta Jones was the greatest black performer of the nineteenth century is a matter of speculation,” said author Rosalyn M. Story in her study of African American divas titled And so I Sing, “but there can be no doubt of her enormous celebrity.”
Feb. 20, 1892: “The Battle of Atlanta” painting, created in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, by German and Polish artists under the direction of Wilhelm Wehner, officially opened in Atlanta to members of the press, city council members and other VIPs. The venue was a drum-shaped building on the north side of Edgewood Avenue between Courtland and Piedmont avenues. Many in the audience had actually participated in the battle on that hot, humid day on July 22, 1864. The next day it was opened to the public. The unanimous consent of those attending was “it is the grandest work of art on exhibition.” The painting is now the centerpiece of the Cyclorama at Grant Park.
Feb. 27, 1868: The Georgia Constitutional Convention named Atlanta the capital of Georgia.