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Antebellum Lamppost To Move, Revealing Black Barber’s Story

Solomon Luckie was a free black businessman in Atlanta during the Civil War.
Solomon Luckie was a free black businessman in Atlanta during the Civil War.
Credit Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

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A more than 150-year-old lamppost in Underground Atlanta is set to move. The City Council voted Monday to donate it to the Atlanta History Center.

The change may bring more attention to the black businessman whose life became tied to the artifact.

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The old gas lamp, standing near the entrance to MARTA in the subterranean mall, still bears the mark. It’s a hole in its iron base, from when an artillery shell struck it during the Civil War.

That’s also when Solomon Luckie’s story became intertwined with the lamppost.

“He was a successful businessman and freeman of color in Atlanta before and during the civil war,” said Wendy Venet, a history professor at Georgia State University.

Venet said that Luckie ran a barbershop at a local hotel. She believes he was set to be the city’s first wealthy black entrepreneur.

That is until that day in 1864 when cannonballs came crashing on Atlanta.

“He was unlucky—his last name is Luckie—but he was unlucky at being above ground at just wrong the moment during the bombardment,” Venet said.

The artillery shell that hit the lamppost ricocheted and struck Luckie. He had his leg amputated, but still died of shock, Venet said.

At the lamppost in Underground Atlanta, which is its original location, Luckie’s story isn’t mentioned. Instead, there are two plaques remembering the confederacy.

But the black businessman’s connection to the artifact may finally be recognized in its new home.

The city is preparing for Underground Atlanta’s redevelopment by a private developer. With an ordinance Monday, the city council determined the lamppost’s value to be under $500, which allowed it to be given to the Atlanta History Center.

The center said it hasn’t developed firm plans for how the relic will be presented in its museum, but it intends to tell the lamppost’s full history.

That inevitably will include the man whose death became linked to it, Solomon Luckie.