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Culture of Property

Race, Class, and Housing Landscapes in Atlanta, 1880-1950

LeeAnn Lands

Publication Year: 2009

This history of the idea of “neighborhood” in a major American city examines the transition of Atlanta, Georgia, from a place little concerned with residential segregation, tasteful surroundings, and property control to one marked by extreme concentrations of poverty and racial and class exclusion. Using Atlanta as a lens to view the wider nation, LeeAnn Lands shows how assumptions about race and class have coalesced with attitudes toward residential landscape aesthetics and home ownership to shape public policies that promote and protect white privilege.

Lands studies the diffusion of property ideologies on two separate but related levels: within academic, professional, and bureaucratic circles and within circles comprising civic elites and rank-and-file residents. By the 1920s, following the establishment of park neighborhoods such as Druid Hills and Ansley Park, white home owners approached housing and neighborhoods with a particular collection of desires and sensibilities: architectural and landscape continuity, a narrow range of housing values, orderliness, and separation from undesirable land uses—and undesirable people.

By the 1950s, these desires and sensibilities had been codified in federal, state, and local standards, practices, and laws. Today, Lands argues, far more is at stake than issues of access to particular neighborhoods, because housing location is tied to the allocation of a broad range of resources, including school funding, infrastructure, and law enforcement. Long after racial segregation has been outlawed, white privilege remains embedded in our culture of home ownership.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: Politics and Culture in the Twentieth-Century South


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

I have many people to thank for their time, support, advice, and knowledge. At Georgia Tech, Ronald Bayor, Douglas Flamming, Larry Keating, Robert McMath, and Steven Usselman provided important feedback on how to think about class and racial segregation historically. All gave generously of their time....

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pp. 1-12

At the turn of the twenty- first century, Atlanta’s metropolitan statistical area sprawled across twenty counties. If you were born that year to a family in the Summerhill neighborhood, in the shadows of Turner Field in Atlanta’s central city, you most likely went home to one of the city’s most concentrated centers...

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One. Housing the City, 1865 to 1910

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pp. 13-40

In 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Union troops plundered and burned Atlanta as they marched to the sea. Citizens returned to find bent rails, solitary chimneys, and scattered cannonballs in what had once been a thriving trading center at the nexus of the Western and Atlantic, Georgia, Atlanta and...

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Two. Atlanta, Park-Neighborhoods, and the New Urban Aesthetic,1880 to 1917

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pp. 41-70

“Th e improvement of cities is a matter of vital concern,” Walter G. Cooper, the secretary to Atlanta’s chamber of commerce wrote in South Atlantic Quarterly in 1908.1 Cooper went on to trace the origins of the aesthetic movements that were redrawing and reshaping cities throughout the world. He described the...

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Three. A City Divided, 1910 to 1917

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pp. 71-106

If the home- owning whites who occupied the distinguished homes lining Jackson Hill, just east of Atlanta’s downtown, were uncomfortable with the presence of African Americans in the area, it did not surface publicly until 1910. Th at year, local whites attempted to remove historically black Morris Brown...

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Four. Homeownership and Park-Neighborhood Ideology, 1910 to 1933

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pp. 107-134

In a 1945 review of John Dean’s Homeownership: Is It Sound?, real- estate analyst Helen Monchow observed that Dean had set himself an unpopular task in examining “an institution so long established, so deep seated, and so widely accepted as a principle or ideal of the so-called American way of life.” She continued...

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Five. Exclusion and Park-Neighborhood Building, 1922 to 1929

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pp. 135-157

In the 1920s, subdivision building drove Atlanta’s largest housing boom to date. Established housing developers and new speculative builders alike platted, subdivided, graded, planted, and hawked new neighborhoods ranging from four square blocks to five hundred acres. Sales values peaked in Atlanta from...

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Six. Park-Neighborhoods, Federal Policy, and Housing Geographies, 1933 to 1950

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pp. 158-198

What had been the most productive period of home building in Atlanta’s (and the nation’s) history slowed and stalled by the late 1920s and then dropped precipitously as the Great Depression set in. Mirroring the decline occurring in other cities, property values had dropped 69 percent between...

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Seven. White Property and Homeowner Privilege

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pp. 199-218

Atlanta exemplifi ed the problem of urban inequality at the turn to the twentyfi rst century. As economist David Sjoquist outlines in a May 2000 Russell Sage– funded study titled The Atlanta Paradox, poverty was highly concentrated and largely located in the older urban core. Despite the city’s reputation as a magnet...

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pp. 219-227

Discerning Atlanta’s residential class and racial geography with an eye to street- level organization was the first task in this project. A variety of methods have been used by scholars to assess how groups segregate themselves or others residentially. The index of dissimilarity...


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pp. 229-266

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 267-280


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pp. 281-295

E-ISBN-13: 9780820342238
E-ISBN-10: 0820342238
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820329796
Print-ISBN-10: 0820329797

Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 12 b&w photos, 7 tables, 23 maps, 1 figure
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Politics and Culture in the Twentieth-Century South
Series Editor Byline: Bryant Simon and Jane Dailey, Series Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 756679973
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Culture of Property

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Home ownership -- Social aspects -- Georgia -- Atlanta -- History.
  • Homeowners -- Georgia -- Atlanta -- Social conditions.
  • African Americans -- Housing -- Georgia -- Atlanta -- History.
  • Atlanta (Ga.) -- Race relations -- History.
  • Discrimination in housing -- Georgia -- Atlanta -- History.
  • Housing -- Georgia -- Atlanta -- History.
  • Social classes -- Georgia -- Atlanta -- History.
  • Segregation -- Georgia -- Atlanta -- History.
  • Whites -- Housing -- Georgia -- Atlanta -- History.
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