East Lake Meadows, the public housing project opened by the Atlanta Housing Authority in 1970 and demolished a generation later, is the subject of East Lake Meadows: A Public Housing Story, a new documentary by Sarah Burns and David McMahon (The Central Park Five, Jackie Robinson).

The documentary, which is executive produced by Ken Burns, tackles the impact of racism on housing while also exploring the daily lives of those who called East Lake Meadows home.

Where to Watch

The film airs Tuesday, March 24, 2020 at 8 p.m. on CPTV as well as on the PBS App and PBS.org.

More About the Program

In 1970, the Atlanta Housing Authority opened the 650-unit public housing community called East Lake Meadows on the edge of Atlanta. Built on the former practice golf course of the Atlanta Athletic Club, which had moved north as part of the white flight that was impacting Atlanta and cities around the country, East Lake Meadows quickly became home to many thousands of low-income Atlantans, mostly African American.

Initially praised for the spacious units and new construction, East Lake Meadows quickly became known as “little Vietnam,” a moniker that was intended to capture the rampant crime and violence that overwhelmed the community.

Shoddy construction and a lack of funding left the project and surrounding landscape in disrepair and led to a rapid decline in the quality of life. As public housing developments in Atlanta and across the country were further abandoned and stigmatized, and as a drug epidemic swept through cities, East Lake Meadows became nearly uninhabitable.

As the film shows, however, residents — many of whom had no other place to go — continued to call it home, creating strong bonds despite the many challenges they faced.

Through the stories of former residents, East Lake Meadows gives voice to some of the most marginalized people in our society and raises critical questions about how we, as a nation, have created concentrated poverty and limited housing opportunity for African Americans, and what can be done to address it.

For more about the program, click here.

Viewers are encouraged to join the conversation on social media: #EastLakePBS

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