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John H. Calhoun, Jr. papers

 Collection — Box: 1-40, OS 1-27
Identifier: 0000-0000-0000-0109

Scope and contents

The collection documents the work of John H. Calhoun, Jr. as a civil rights activist, political organizer, community leader, and businessman. The collection dates span the years from 1916 to 2000 with the bulk of the materials from 1960-1979. The bulk of the materials consist of organizations that he was affiliated with, which includes his work with the Economic Opportunity Atlanta (EOA) and Model Cities, where he was instrumental in revitalizing areas such as Grant Park and Auburn Avenue; the Atlanta Student Adult Liason where he worked to desegregate lunch counters and integration of stores in the Atlanta area; and the NAACP where he served as the Atlanta Chapter President and went to jail for not giving up the membership list. There are also some materials about his furniture and real estate businesses, his position as Alderman for the City of Atlanta, his activities with the Republican Party, as well as the draft to his unpublished book "Atlanta - The Cradle of Black Leadership in America" and news articles that he wrote when he was a reporter. Also included are correspondence, photographs, printed materials, and artifacts.


  • Creation: 1916-2000
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1960-1979


Rights statement

All materials in this collection are either protected by copyright and/or are the property of the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center, Inc., and/or the copyright holder as appropriate. For more information, please contact

Biographical note

John H. Calhoun Jr. (b. 1899 - d. 1988) was a businessman, community leader, civil rights activist, and political organizer. He dedicated much of his life to politics, business, community, and economic development.

Calhoun was born on July 8, 1889 in Greenville, South Carolina. He began working at the age of twelve as an apprentice to a blacksmith. Calhoun was a lifetime student. He graduated from high school at Hampton Institute (VA) in 1922 at the age of 23; received a B.A. Degree from Morehouse College in 1937 at the age of 38; and received a M.B.A. from Atlanta University in 1968 at the age of 69. He held a variety of jobs to support himself and his family. He worked as a janitor, dock worker, bookkeeper, insurance salesman, real estate broker, newspaper reporter, and editor. He also worked in his father-in-law's business, Cornelius King and Son Real Estate, as office manager. Later, he opened Calhoun Furniture Company as well as became a licensed real estate broker and formed John Calhoun Real Estate. Calhoun had two children, Ninaking C. Anderson and Lt. Col. John H. Calhoun III, and two grandchildren, Bryan Nelson Calhoun and Leslie Victoria Calhoun.

In 1934, Calhoun moved to Atlanta and for the next thirty years became affectionately known by many in Atlanta as "Your Man in Community Action". Calhoun civil rights work began as early as 1923 while working at the United States Veteran's Hospital at Tuskegee as bookkeeper resulting in many threats from the Klu Klux Klan. In 1949, he and several others formed the Atlanta Negro Voters Leagues and served with the Statewide Registration Committee. In 1956, he became president of the Atlanta Branch of the NAACP where he was arrested for refusing to release membership records. He set up a network of neighborhood organizations such as Economic Opportunity Atlanta in 1965, and later, Model Cities in 1974.

Calhoun was very passionate about politics and was an active member of the Republican Party. In 1974, he was elected to the Atlanta City Council where he presented a resolution to form the Neighborhood Planning Unit System. As a member, he introduced this same idea to the Atlanta Charter Commission and the Atlanta Regional Commission. Calhoun was also very passionate about his volunteer activities. He worked with the Butler Street YMCA for over fifty years, participated in civic affairs in the Grant Park area, was an active member of the Atlanta Business League, and served as a Trustee and Sunday School Superintendent of Big Bethel AME Church.

John Calhoun died May 6, 1988 of respiratory failure at his home in Atlanta, Georgia.


35 Linear feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement note

This series is arranged into five series: 1. Personal Papers; 2. Organizations; 3. Political Records; 4. Audio/Visual Materials; and 5. Printed Materials

Related archival materials

John H. Calhoun, Jr., papers, 1916-2000
Finding aid prepared by Stacy Jones, 2014 April.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center, Inc. Repository


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