Georgia State University, Class on Black Atlanta and the Black Popular Culture
I enjoy talking to college students, especially those who want to know something about who they are, and where they came from. So when Dr. Hopson asked me to speak to his class about Black Atlanta, I was very pleased to do so.
I love Atlanta . . . especially Black Atlanta. I came to this city in 1962 when I was 22 years old and I was in awe of the Black people in the city. Coming from the country in North Carolina, I might have been educated at North Carolina College with an MS degree and traveled to many northern cities; but I was still a country girl at heart. (I still am.) As I looked around at all of the culture, the notables within the Atlanta University Center complex, the sophistication that Black people had within their arm’s reach, the homes and the neighborhoods in which they live, the Black-owned businesses that catered to our people, I just knew I was in mecca. It never occurred to me that these people, these Black people, might have thought of themselves as “bourgeoisie” or “snooty.” Then and now, I prefer the words proud, dignified, self-assured and self-respecting.
As I meet new people who move into Atlanta, I often heard them say that Atlanta’s Black people are cliquish and will not let newcomers into their circles. I see a difference group of Black people. As I grew up and matured into this proud Black community, I began to understand the reasons for the cliques and the clubs. If I had the time I would certainly explain my version of why these (cliques and clubs) were necessary back in the days when Black people were struggling for a place to live, under the sun, where their God given talents could grow. As so, in Atlanta, we – the Black people – before my time – started our own society. And what a society it was.
Black people in this city have every possible right to be proud of their achievements which date back to before the beginning of Friendship Baptist Church in 1862 when the church started in a Box Car with Atlanta University. The AUC colleges and universities (Morehouse in 1867, Clark College in 1869, Spelman College in 1881, and Morris Brown College also founded in 1881 by slaves) set Atlanta aside from any other city in American.
Understand that we could not go to the movie down town and be treated like first class citizens; but we had the Regal Theater on Fair Street. Maybe they did not serve us at the hospital downtown, but we had McLendon Hospital. There is so much to be proud of as a Black Atlantan.
My challenge to all of you new Atlantans and those of you who want to label us as cliques, take a few minutes and do some research and try to understand why. Understand that it might have been the Race Riots of 1906 that taught us that we had better live together in cliques for protection, if nothing else.
Enough of my singing the praises of Black Atlanta. If you like it stay here. If you don’t like us, leave. But keep your GA driver’s license because you might find yourself coming back.