World Congress Center

“Georgia World Congress Center,” The #TUOR Project, Eric Solomon and Dave Hayward, 2021.

Site Narrative

In June 1978, the World Congress Center served as the site of a mass mobilization event (estimates from 2,000–4,000 people) in which protestors spoke out against anti gay and lesbian activist Anita Bryant’s appearance at the Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta.

During this protest event, Atlanta resident and lesbian activist-herstorian Maria Helena Dolan delivered what would become an iconic speech. “I come to you today as a defiant dyke!,” she exclaimed. Read our Story with Maria Helena Dolan here.

In 1988, the World Congress Center hosted the display of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and the May 28, 1988 world premiere of the late Rebecca Ranson’s play Higher Ground: Voices of AIDS, which included a cast of 23 people living with AIDS. From 1986–1998, Rebecca Ranson served as the Executive Director of the Southeastern Arts, Media and Education Project (SAME), a multi-arts organization for the gay and lesbian community in Atlanta, Georgia. Her 1984 play, Warren, about her friend Warren Johnston who died of AIDS complications, was one of the first works to dramatize the HIV/AIDS crisis.


Alexander, William. “Clearing Space: AIDS Theatre in Atlanta.” TDR (1988-) 34, no. 3 (1990): 109-28. Accessed April 22, 2021. doi:10.2307/1146075.

Kowal, Matthew, “Atlanta’s Curtain Call: AIDS Activism on the Southern Stage” (2019). Undergraduate
Honors Theses. Paper 1305.

Rebecca Ranson (center) portraying Emily in Higher Ground: Voices of AIDS. Credit: AJC. Courtesy of Georgia State University. AJCP316-011c, Atlanta Journal-Constitution Photographic Archives. Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library.

“It’s there. AIDS is… It’s everywhere… I’m holding these men in my memories. I don’t know why. There’s so much about this that I don’t understand.”

Rebecca Ranson, Higher Ground