Years before NASCAR existed, on a secluded patch of land in rural Georgia, black race car drivers made history.
The story of the Atlanta Stock Car Club (ASCC) has not been as well documented as other racing organizations, but this group of African-American racers and promoters was active during the 1940’s and 1950’s. Based out of the Lithonia Speedway and Country Club, a track and performance venue located north of downtown Lithonia, the ASCC organized some of the most popular events for African-Americans in the Atlanta area during that time. Buses would run from downtown Atlanta to the Speedway in order to provide safe transportation for African-Americans to the remote racetrack, without fear of harassment or bigotry.
A variety of black drivers raced at locations throughout the south, with popular stars such as the Muckles brothers – George and Ben – Arthur “Decatur Express” Avery, Joe Daniels and Charles Scott driving in segregated competitions. These star drivers brought hundreds of spectators to the stands of the Lithonia Speedway. Women drove as well, although in smaller numbers than the men; these female racers included Cora Miller, Delphine Lewis, and Marian Thompson.
African-Americans gathered at the Lithonia Speedway and Country Club for more than just stock car racing. Each Fourth of July, the ASCC hosted an annual race and beauty contest, with young women competing to be that year’s “Miss Stock Car.” Contest winners enjoyed hefty prizes, such as an all-expenses-paid trip to a Florida resort. The Country Club hosted musical acts touring on what was called the “chitterling circuit” (also called the “chitlin circuit”), which brought black musicians through the south. Performers at the Lithonia Country Club included James Brown, B. B. King and Little Richard, all of whom got their start on the chitterling circuit.
The rise of the ASCC and its location in Lithonia was tied to the success of African-Americans in Atlanta, particularly with the businesses located along Auburn Avenue. Dr. Benjamin F. Anderson, a dentist educated at Morris Brown College and Howard University, and who operated a dental office on Auburn Ave., purchased the tract of land in Lithonia. Anderson sold his lakeside property in the 1940’s and this property eventually became the Lithonia Speedway and Country Club.
Although the ASCC enjoyed success and popularity for over a decade, it had faded into obscurity by the late 1950’s. The reasons for the decline of the African-American racing organization and the numerous events and performances that accompanied races remain not fully understood. But while the ASCC’s star has dimmed with time, it had a significant impact on black life in DeKalb County and Atlanta in the mid-1900’s and the drivers of the ASCC were pioneers in a sport that today remains predominantly white. Part of the vibrant and resilient history of African-Americans in DeKalb County, their achievements cannot be overstated.
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