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Butler Street YMCA records

Identifier: Y.ATL.1


Meeting minutes, reports, financial data, program information, and other records of the Butler Street YMCA, which served primarily the African American community of Atlanta from 1894 until 2012. Most of the material consists of the files of DeWitt N. Martin, president and CEO of the Y from 1975 until it closed its doors in 2012. The records include files compiled by Martin as part of his efforts to keep the Butler Street YMCA open despite financial issues and pressure from the national headquarters to close or merge with the Metro Atlanta YMCA.


  • 1975-2012
  • Majority of material found within ( 1982-1999)


Language of Materials


Use of Materials:

This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.


The Butler Street YMCA was founded in 1894 when a group of young men met in the basement of the Wheat Street Baptist Church to formalize the YMCA association. The historic building on Butler Street was built in 1920 and included 48 dormitory rooms, seven class rooms, a small auditorium, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, shower baths, and a café. As a historically Black organization, Butler Street YMCA allowed visitors of color to find clean, safe accommodations during the Jim Crow era and beyond. Often referred to as the "Black City of Hall of Atlanta," the Y was home to many of Atlanta's key business and civic leaders, educators and professionals, and a significant influence in the African American community of the city for many years. Vernon Jordon, Maynard Jackson, and Martin Luther King, Jr. were among the many well-known Black leaders who relied on the Butler Street Y as a meeting place and community center.

In 1942 the YMCA founded the Hungry Club Forum, an organization for Black and other leaders to advance African American men. It sponsored lectures by speakers famous at national and international levels. The Butler Street YMCA also housed the city's first Black police precinct as well as the Black Atlanta Teachers Union, The Atlanta Medical Society, the Empire Real Estate Board, and the Atlanta Voters League. It worked closely with the city of Atlanta on efforts to minimize crime in the city in the 1980s and 90s. Other major programs included Race Back to Books, Black Achievers, Aquatics-Learn to Swim, as well as after school programs, day camps, fitness programs, and wellness centers. Originally one of hundreds of YMCAs founded by and serving primarily African American communities, by the early 2000s it was among just seven "Heritage Ys" still operating. In the 1990s the Butler Street YMCA began to experience financial difficulties and by December of 2012 the association was forced to close its doors.

Historical information taken from the collection, as well as from -- they-close-the-butler-street-ymca-and-what-will-b9b5b361225 (accessed December 2015) and (accessed December 2015).


8.7 Cubic Feet (9 boxes)


Records of the Butler Street YMCA, which served primarily the African American community of Atlanta from 1894 to 2012.

Physical Location

See Detailed Description section for box listing.


An extensive collection of video recordings of Butler Street YMCA activities, particularly the Hungry Club, is separately available in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives audio visual collections.

Processing Information:

Material is minimally processed.

Catalog Record ID number: 9974070608601701

Future Processing Needs

Video recordings (listed in video recording spreadsheet) should eventually be added to this finding aid, at least in summary fashion.

An Inventory of Its Records
Finding aid prepared by Lara Friedman~Shedlov.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area