#TheRootTrip: In Atlanta, a Mystery. Who Was Ma Sutton?

Lawrence Ross/The Root
Lawrence Ross/The Root

In the short time that I have to research these Green Book spots, the hardest ones tend to be those that were owned by black women. Even when they’re called “famous” or dubbed as “must visits” in historical documents, the details about the lives of these female entrepreneurs are often either lost or hard to find. So I’m asking for help on one particular woman: Ma Sutton.


According to various accounts, particularly by jazz musicians, Sutton’s Restaurant, or Ma Sutton’s, was a must-visit boarding room/tea house/chop house on historic Auburn Avenue at 312 Auburn Ave. in Atlanta.

According to Living Atlanta: An Oral History of the City, 1914-1948, a local barber said, “Everybody all over the country would come to Atlanta and go get a decent meal at Ma Sutton’s. She would really set a table. You’d get everything on the table just like you would at home, serve yourself. You’d have meats and vegetables of all kinds, light rolls, cornbread, coffee, milk or tea. She’d even put out preserves on the table.”

Panama Francis, a legendary jazz drummer, remarked in his book, Panama’s Story: My History as a Jazz Drummer, that you could “pitch till you win” at Ma Sutton’s, which meant that it was an all-you-can-eat affair.

So if anyone has more info, especially an image and her first name, please put it in the comment section.


Her name might be Scottie Sutton. According to the 1940 US Census via Ancestry.com, she was born around 1882 and lived at 312 Auburn. https://www.ancestry.com/1940-census/usa/Georgia/Scottie-Sutton_1ys9cd