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Black Power in Dixie

A Political History of African Americans in Atlanta

Alton Hornsby Jr.

Publication Year: 2009

Atlanta stands out among southern cities for many reasons, not least of which is the role African Americans have played in local politics. Black Power in Dixie offers the first comprehensive study of black politics in the city.

From Reconstruction to recent times, the middle-class black leadership in Atlanta, while often subordinating class and gender differences to forge a continuous campaign for equality, successfully maintained its mantle of racial leadership for more than a century through a deft combination of racial advocacy and collaboration with local white business and political elites.

Alton Hornsby provides an analysis of how one of the most important southern cities managed, adapted, and coped with the struggle for racial justice, examining both traditional electoral politics as well as the roles of non-elected individuals influential in the community. Highlighting the terms of Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young, the city's first two black mayors, Hornsby concludes by raising important questions about the success of black political power and whether it has translated into measurable economic power for the African American community.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Series: Southern Dissent


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

List of Figures

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

The history of black people in America’s cities stretches back into the seventeenth century. As early as the 1640s, for example, people of African descent— many of them slaves—had a major presence in New Amsterdam. They contributed to that Dutch colonial city’s cosmopolitan culture and continued to do so after the city fell under English control ...

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pp. xiii-xvi

Several institutions and individuals have contributed to this work, and I wish to express my sincere appreciation. They include Dan Moore and his staff at the APEX Museum of Atlanta; the Central Library of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System; the Auburn Avenue Library on African American Culture of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System; ...

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pp. xv-xviii

Southern politics have, in a sense, always been the politics of race. This was particularly true in the post–Civil War era, when blacks were emancipated and given, through the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments, access to the franchise. Much of the history of southern politics since that time has been the story of the role, ...

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pp. 1-11

Early studies of power and leadership in the United States focused not only on electoral politics but on the influence of community leaders who were not elected officials. Prominent among these were the works of C. Wright Mills, Floyd Hunter, Delbert Miller, and others who purported that the structure of power in the United States ...

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1. From Reconstruction to the Nadir, 1867–1908

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pp. 12-27

African Americans in Atlanta emerged from bondage in much the same fashion as freedpersons throughout the South. Most were economically destitute and illiterate; their basic needs in food and shelter and some rudimentary education were provided by the Freedmen’s Bureau and northern missionary societies. ...

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2. The Nadir of Black Political Influence, 1909–1932

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pp. 28-50

The period in Atlanta politics from 1909 to the New Deal has been called the nadir of black political interest and influence. The Georgia legislature, in 1908, passed a statewide act that disfranchised blacks, except in “general, open, and special elections.” ...

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3. The Return to Electoral Politics, 1932–1946

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pp. 51-73

The decisive impact of the black vote on the special school board referendum in 1921, it may be argued, signaled the reawakening of African American voters in Atlanta and their return to electoral politics. But, in reality, this was an isolated event, and one with deep emotional roots in the black communities. ...

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4. The Dawn of Political Influence, 1947–1961

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pp. 74-104

William Berry (Bill) Hartsfield was elected mayor of Atlanta in 1937 following the nadir of black political influence in the city. The new mayor was a native of Atlanta who attended its public schools. Although he dropped out in his senior year, an aunt paid his tuition for a six-month course in typing and shorthand at the Dixie Business School in Atlanta. ...

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5. The Growth of Political Influence, 1961–1970

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pp. 105-129

The year 1961 has been recorded as pivotal in the black civil rights revolution in the United States. The birth of the sit-in movement in Greensboro, North Carolina, in the previous year was the catalyst for the direct-action phase of the civil rights movement, a phase that culminated in the death of legally sanctioned Jim Crowism in all facets of southern life. ...

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6. Black Power Triumphant, 1970–1981

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pp. 130-182

On the afternoon of January 7, 1970, news reporters and spectators crowded into the Aldermanic Chambers at Atlanta’s city hall to witness a historic occasion. A young Jewish mayor and a young black vice mayor were to take their oaths of office along with a biracial city council. ...

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7. Solidification and Stratification, 1982–1990

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pp. 183-209

As Maynard Holbrook Jackson Jr. left the Atlanta mayor’s office in January 1982 after two terms as the Deep South’s first African American chief executive of a major city, he left a record of material and emotional accomplishments that not only made many black Atlantans proud, but that was hailed by much of black America. ...

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8. Black Public Education in Atlanta: From Segregation to Segregation, 1950–1988

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pp. 210-238

Like most African Americans emerging from bondage after the Civil War, black Atlantans recognized the necessity of obtaining “book learning.” Hence, their leaders quickly made education a top priority in their racial agenda. Nevertheless, at the middle of the twentieth century, as their numerous petitions, ...

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pp. 239-248

From the Reconstruction era to the pre–civil rights era, black Atlanta’s participation in politics grew from being an occasional influence on general and special elections and having three persons elected to public office to holding a balance of power in local elections. ...

Appendix. African American Influentials in Atlanta, 1950–1990

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pp. 249-252


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pp. 253-280


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pp. 281-294


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pp. 295-307

About the Author, Further Reading

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813045191
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813032825
Print-ISBN-10: 0813032822

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 4 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Southern Dissent
Series Editor Byline: Stanley Harrold and Randall M. Miller See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 801841631
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Black Power in Dixie

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Subject Headings

  • African Americans -- Georgia -- Atlanta -- Politics and government.
  • African Americans -- Georgia -- Atlanta -- History.
  • Atlanta (Ga.) -- Politics and government.
  • Political leadership -- Georgia -- Atlanta -- History.
  • Elite (Social sciences) -- Georgia -- Atlanta.
  • Atlanta (Ga.) -- Race relations.
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