Remembering Hattie B. Dorsey: Atlanta civil rights, equitable housing leader

(L-R) Minister Jean King-Battle and Honoree Hattie B. Dorsey attend the Women On The Move Honoree Celebration at the Mason Murer Fine Art Museum on February 12, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Moses Robinson/WireImage)

Atlanta is mourning the passing of civil rights activist and community development leader Hattie B. Dorsey. 

Dorsey is particularly known for her work in Atlanta as the founder and former president of the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, Inc. She has also been instrumental in shaping policies and programs that promote affordable housing and sustainable community development. 

Mayor Andre Dickens on Hattie B. Dorsey 

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens released a statement on the passing on Dorsey which reads: 

"A tireless advocate for housing equity in our community, Ms. Dorsey's pioneering efforts, particularly through her establishment and leadership of the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership (ANDP), have profoundly helped to shape a more equitable housing landscape in Atlanta. 

"Hattie supported me as a city council candidate and mayoral candidate, and we talked all the time about our favorite topic: affordable housing. 

"Her vision and dedication helped transform countless lives and neighborhoods, fostering a more inclusive Atlanta. 

"Her contributions have left an indelible mark on our city and will continue to influence future generations. Our deepest condolences go out to her family, friends and all those who had the privilege of working alongside her." 

Hattie B. Dorsey’s early life and education 

Dorsey grew up witnessing the struggles associated with inadequate housing and economic disparities. This early exposure to social issues sparked her commitment to advocating for underprivileged communities. She pursued higher education with a goal to better understand and combat these issues systematically. 

Born into a large family as the eldest of eleven children on May 31, 1939, in Teachey, North Carolina, Dorsey's journey in leadership and civil advocacy began early. The family relocated to New York City during her adolescence, where she attended Charles Evan Hughes High School, delving into courses in fashion and interior design before moving again to Atlanta. 

In Atlanta, Dorsey continued her education at David T. Howard High School. Her father, a significant figure in the community as the pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church and chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Operation Bread Basket, played a pivotal role in her upbringing. Dorsey is also a first cousin to the father of gospel music legend Thomas A. Dorsey. 

Dorsey's academic journey led her to Spelman College and later to Clark Atlanta University, where she earned a B.S. degree in secretarial science in 1964.  

Hattie B. Dorsey’s commitment to civil rights 

Her career began in secretarial roles, but her path took a decisive turn when she joined the National Urban League as an administrative assistant. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Dorsey dedicated herself to civil rights, working with the NAACP’s legal defense team on significant housing discrimination cases. 

Her commitment to civil rights and community advocacy took her to San Francisco, where she worked for the Stanford Mid-Peninsula Urban Coalition on Affordable Housing, before returning to Atlanta to lead the ANDP. Under her presidency, Dorsey focused on strengthening Metro Atlanta neighborhoods and making public housing issues a regional priority. She was instrumental in launching a $16 million capital campaign in 1995 to boost housing construction ahead of the Olympic Games, showcasing her ability to leverage resources across the private, public, and philanthropic sectors. 

Dorsey’s contributions have not gone unnoticed. She has been honored with numerous awards, including the 2005 Spelman College Local Community Service Award, a nomination for Woman of the Year by Atlanta Woman magazine, and induction into the Atlanta Business League’s Women Hall of Fame in 2003. Her other accolades include recognition by Georgia Trend magazine as one of the "2004 Notable Georgians" and receiving the Georgia Black Caucus Grace Towns Hamilton Leadership Award. 

Hattie B. Dorsey’s commitment to affordable housing 

Before founding the ANDP in 1991, Dorsey had established a reputation for being a forceful advocate for affordable housing, both in her community and nationally. Her career includes decades of experience working with various community organizations, corporations, and government entities to foster urban redevelopment and increase access to affordable housing. 

At ANDP, Dorsey led the way in developing a collaborative model that brought together public, private, and nonprofit sectors to support community revitalization efforts across the metropolitan Atlanta area. Under her leadership, ANDP became a key player in the city's efforts to combat housing issues, providing a platform for leveraging investments and promoting policy reforms. 

Dorsey's lifelong dedication to enhancing the lives of low to moderate-income families and revitalizing neighborhoods has earned her widespread respect and multiple accolades. Her pioneering work has not only made a tangible difference in the communities she served but also set a standard for effective cross-sector partnerships in urban development. 

Moreover, as a recognized leader and mentor, Dorsey has inspired countless individuals to engage in community service and advocacy. Her work has demonstrated the immense value of persistent and informed activism in achieving systemic change. 

While Hattie B. Dorsey may not be a household name, her impact on affordable housing and community redevelopment is undeniable. Her visionary approach has left an indelible mark on Atlanta and serves as a model for other cities grappling with similar challenges.