Amazing photos from the Freaknik Spring Break festival in Atlanta

If you grew up in Atlanta, you’ve heard of Freaknik. Originally spelled Freaknic, it was conceived in 1982 as an end-of-year party for students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). It became so popular that it became an annual event, was renamed, and HBCU students and non-students from across the country began flocking to Atlanta in the spring to dance, have fun, and build community during the largely white spring break. party scene.

Johnny Crawford is a photographer who worked at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 28 years, beginning in 1985. He went to Morehouse College in Atlanta and was able to photograph some of the biggest names and events in history during his nearly three decades in the diary, from Nelson Mandela to the Olympic Games. He also photographed Freaknik for two years in the 1990s.

“Freaknic wasn’t a big deal for me because I was from the University Center in Atlanta, where it all started,” he told us over the phone. “Most of the time the students were just trying to have fun without going to Daytona Beach. They had a step show in Piedmont Park, playing loud music and dancing.”

Freaknik turned what was essentially a block party into an infamous street festival and cultural moment. Despite Freaknik’s carefree nature, “there were certain opinions about black children in the South,” Crawford said, which ultimately led to friction between the predominantly black attendees and the surrounding white neighborhoods. During his second year photographing the festival for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Crawford recalled the city’s new editor telling him, “‘You have to be prepared to photograph the kids who get locked up. . “”

“I said, ‘Why? It’s a group of kids partying and dancing in the street, “which blocked traffic, but as far as kids doing something crazy, that wasn’t a problem,” Crawford said.

Freaknik finally stopped in 1999, with the city citing traffic problems. But it remained a cultural moment that people remember fondly. The festival returned in 2019 and you can still find some of the amazing T-shirts on eBay. We looked at some pictures of Freaknik in his heyday.