Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Race Relations

        The study of race relations in Atlanta is one that I could not possible cover in just a single blog post. I have found so many books, articles, and studies that analyze Atlanta's biracial government, its history of segregation and Jim Crow laws, and leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. In fact, there is extensive literature on just the Civil Rights movement in Atlanta. Because of such wealth of information, I just want to summarize a few of the major points that I thought were very interesting.....and that relate to topics we have covered in class. Everything in the following bullet points comes from the Ambrose (2003) book.

-In 1890, approximately 28,000 blacks lived in Atlanta. The city had a huge appeal for black migrants, mostly because of prominent educational and employment opportunities that other large cities in the South still lacked.
-For example, Atlanta had several early education institutions just for blacks, as well as black colleges and universities. Black churches were also very prominent in the social and political sphere.
-Compared to the rest of the South, Atlanta had a rather large number of successful black leaders, businessmen, and property owners.
-The impact of black voters was recognized as early as 1867, when 37 blacks were elected to the state constitutional convention.
-Auburn Avenue, or "sweet Auburn" was a whole business and entertainment district that was entirely for blacks.

-As the city grew rapidly, so did race tensions, discriminations, and segregations. The 1906 race riot is an example of such tensions heightening.
-Zoning laws, housing ordinances, and real estate companies took residential segregation to extreme levels in the early 1900's.
-"Atlanta became, in effect, two separate cities- one white, and one black" (Ambrose 2003:102).
-In the 1920's and 30's, Atlanta served as the headquarters, or "imperial city," of the Ku Klux Klan.

-Slowly but surely, the Civil Rights Movement took full strength and the city of Atlanta began to desegregate. Jim Crow laws slowly disappeared, and African Americans continued to play minor roles in governance.
-In 1973, Maynard Jackson became Atlanta's first African-American mayor.
-His planning, affirmative action hiring, and good relationship with the white businessmen of the city greatly restructured racial relations in governance.
-That same year, a new city charter changed the election process from at-large to district, which meant more opportunities for minority representation were available.

            The story of Atlanta's racial relations is much more in depth than these bullet points show. From this small summary, however, we can acknowledge certain major points and themes. The first is that Atlanta certainly grew from the beginning as a city with a large African American community but with large problems in segregation. While some of the larger sources of discrimination (such as Jim Crow and the KKK) are no longer an issue, it is true that Atlanta still suffers from community and housing segregation. Even if unintentional, Atlanta still has areas that are clearly black communities. However, today Atlanta also has pockets of all Latino, Korean, and Vietnamese communities. This points to the growth of multi-ethnicity, even though most other cultural/racial groups are located within the metro area instead of in the city.
           Second, the history of black leadership and black mayors is an important one. Atlanta stands out from other southern cities of the time because despite segregation, the black community thrived in its own businesses and communities. Atlanta has had black mayors for decades now, and the relationship between Atlanta's white and black leaders has not been a negative one. It has helped the city grow. The politics of mayors like Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young are prime examples of what Judd and Swanstorm (2010)  call "political incorporation." By appealing to the white business elites and supporting pro-growth polices and downtown development, black mayors in Atlanta have been fairly successful. Thus, by delivering important services, they have been able to form governing coalitions. With the support of the white business leaders, mayors like Jackson succeeded in minority mobilization and minority incorporation (Browning et. al 1986).

           I believe that when it comes to race relations, the Atlanta metro area today faces different issues. The huge and rapid increase of Latino's has brought about a new minority population that still faces underrepresentation. The Latino community also suffers from discriminatory policies today. One example is the fact that Latino's in Gwinnett County (a predominantly Latino area) are being targeted by police officers who work in collaboration with ICE. I would like to explore this area more, so I will try to find some articles for a later blog.

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