Evolution of an Urban Area
James L. Minter, III PD 120 Assignment #2: Evolution of an Urban Area Location: Atlanta, Ga. / Fulton County I have chosen to do my research on the city of Atlanta, Georgia within Fulton County.
Atlanta is the largest city within Fulton County and has significant value to the Black community. It is of interest to me as Black/Latino man who has been astonished by how quickly so many minorities have jumped at the opportunity to head south when we not so long ago were heading north at a record pace for the same reason, opportunity. I will discuss what I have read, researched, and learned from my own experiences as well.In this country, so many squirm at the very mention of the suburban “White Flight” of White persons buying suburban homes every since WWII. However, the fact remains that in this country no matter what race you are if you are presented with a better alternative for living and working you will gravitate towards that lifestyle. This is extremely evident in my research, as so many Blacks headed back to where their mother’s and father’s fled to either escape death, racism, slavery or was just simply looking for a job to make a living.Within my community the state of Georgia was not looked upon favorably, in fact, when I was a child, 40 years ago, it would have been considered just about crazy to leave progressive New York for the racist south, especially Georgia where cotton was a mainstay to the economy. Nowadays, it’s becoming just the opposite; the businesses are leaving for the south (along with the jobs) and the racism being experienced up north, I believe, is because of the shrinking market for jobs and the disdain for someone in a minority group “taking” what used to be “yours job”.So for those reasons, I’d like to take you on a journey to understand what Atlanta has become and why many Blacks affectionately refer it to as “Chocolate City”. Fulton County in 1900 had a population of 117,363 persons and has grown to 816,006 in the 2000 census. Whereas, the City of Atlanta in 1900 had a population of 89,872 persons and has grown to 537,958 since the 2000 census. Fulton county since the early 1900’s has steadily been in the low single digits as far as foreign born persons residing within the county ntil 2000 where the foreign born rate climbed to 10%. Although historically in Atlanta and Fulton County the predominant immigrants are those whose ancestry are from Russia, Germany, UK, Italy, Ireland, and Greece it wasn’t until the 2000 census that Africans were migrating to Atlanta as the 4th largest migrating group on record. It further demonstrated that those of African descent and those who were American Blacks looked upon Atlanta as a chance for minorities to “get ahead” and share some form of American success.Many Blacks from the north began migrating south, just the opposite as the early 1900’s, as industries such as auto plants began downsizing, steel plants were shutting down more and more, affirmative action was being frowned upon, and the large incomes that were being made within the construction industries (both via developing and trade unions in the west and north east) was not being shared with northern & western Blacks. The trade unionist, still to this day, struggle to “give up” what they perceive to be their own trade with minority groups (i. e.Italian cement masons & laborers, German Operators, Irish Iron Workers, etc. ). This shutting out phenomenon of varying industries, especially within the northeast, has caused many minority groups (esp. Blacks and Latinos) to migrate south for opportunities that were not present to them at home. When you couple the “black/brown migration” south to Atlanta along with subsidies being given to oil companies and big corporations to relocate headquarters along the “Sunbelt”; there is no wonder that opportunity was available for those who were willing to work non-union and compete for low paying jobs against migrant workers.Since the immigration laws were eased via legislation in 1965, the most extreme documentation of “Sunbelt” workers in Fulton County have been those of Spanish speaking origin for various reasons. Since the 1970 census, Hispanic ethnicity in Fulton County went from 8,260 to a whopping 48,056 in the 2000 census. Whether it be Cubans fleeing communism, Mexicans looking to just make a decent living, or Blacks fleeing being shut out during the up rise of our economy during the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the fact remains that Atlanta was viewed as a city where minorities could go and make a better life for themselves and their families.This “black/brown migration” was not going unnoticed by the native White’s of Atlanta. As Blacks became the majority group in Atlanta by 2000 at 60% of the city’s population, Whites continued to move away to their suburban homelands of Fulton County, as they made up 66% of the suburbs population in 2000. Atlanta and Fulton County continued to grow but it was evident that it was growing into a more extreme segregated population. However, there was a transformation-taking place, the Black suburb.The more populated the city of Atlanta was getting; the more Blacks began populating the suburbs themselves. Along with the pattern of the housing market targeting low and middle-income residents to buy homes from the mid 1990’s through the 2000’s. Blacks (and other minority groups) began buying suburban homes attempting to gain the “American Dream”. As a political foresight to the “black/brown” migration, the affluent suburb of Buckhead was annexed and became part of Atlanta, as many believe, to keep the majority-voting block in the city White.So, now being part of Atlanta, many Blacks began buying beautiful homes in Buckhead and other surrounding suburbs creating the vision of a “Black suburb”. However, since this annexation there has been increased feuding with the northern residents of the more affluent White suburbs with the collection and distribution of taxes towards the southern portion of the county. The feeling amongst the northerners within the county is that they are subsidizing the south because that’s where the most local support service dollars are being spent.So after the 2000 census Blacks now make up at least 28% of the Fulton County suburbs, and still maintain over 60% of the population in the city of Atlanta, thus justifying the affectionate name of “Chocolate City”. Another varying phenomenon is the research numbers that show that even with a heavy influx of Asian/Pacific Islander into Fulton County and the city of Atlanta less than 1% actually migrated to the city while over 4% migrated immediately to the suburb.This further shows the trend of those even born in another country knows that to live in the suburbs in America is a matter of status more than anything else. Especially when the suburbs in European cities represent all the ills of their societies, and it’s literally vice versa. Our affluent residents look to leave the central cities, while European affluent residents look to live as close to the center of the city as possible (Paris, for example).Between 1950 and 1960 is when the greatest changes came to the region, with the city growing by almost 140,000 persons due to its annexation of the Buckhead suburb. The city of Atlanta varies from its suburbs in Fulton County for one main reason, the highway structure and volumes of headquarters for major corporations and media outlets. While the suburbs in Fulton County are littered with strip malls and sub divisions, the City of Atlanta is filled with tall corporate buildings surrounded by winding and crisscrossing highway roads.The Fulton County suburbs are predominantly White (with a heavy influence of Russian and German ancestry), clean and quiet within the neighborhoods, while the City of Atlanta is predominantly Black, loud and busy (especially during the day), with stand still traffic on the highways during the morning and evening rush hours, covered under a layer of fog from vehicle emissions. The problem that “Chocolate City” and Fulton County will be facing soon is the lack of jobs even in this economy that may be on the rise.The burst of the dot com bubbles, the failing oil refineries, and globalization of businesses will surely have the residents of this once bubbling land of opportunity in Atlanta possibly fleeing again for greener pastures elsewhere, or fighting for jobs for even less pay with migrant workers or desperate residents willing to take almost anything that you would not, if you had a choice. So “Chocolate City” has been good to many minority workers, especially over the last two decades, however the sun may be rising and the chocolate sweetness of success may be melting sooner than one might think.