Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Saying 'Goodbye' to Atlanta

As my time in Atlanta draws to a close, I am left with some reflections on my project thus far. For comparison purposes, Atlanta and Richmond have served as useful case-studies of the New South and the Old South, respectively. But generally, those stark, cut-and-dried divisions are facile. And Atlanta and Richmond are no exception to the rule of ambiguity.

Atlanta was heralded as the model of the New South by Henry Grady; it was also proclaimed the Imperial City of the Klan. Even as Booker T. Washington was allowed to address racially mixed audiences, Atlanta was also the scene of a bloody race riot in 1906.

But are racial tensions in Atlanta just ancient history?

Well, not exactly. The ouster of Democrat governor Roy Barnes 4 years ago was largely due to his stance on the Georgia state flag. From '56 until Barnes, the flag had been more or less the rebel battle flag.

In garnering the support of "flaggers" (Georgians who would stand on the street and wave the rebel flag), Sonny Perdue won the election and turned Georgia solidly red.

Still, the tensions in Georgia are fundamentally different from those in Richmond. In Georgia, political tensions run down the Atlanta-South Georgia fault line. Many Georgians resent the Northern-ness, the foreign-influence in Atlanta. No doubt race plays a factor for many white, rural Georgians.

Racial tensions are polarizing within Richmond city limits. These have been touched upon earlier in the blog. However, things in Richmond aren't so neatly packaged either. Larger companies are moving into the area, bringing a population indifferent to the area's waspy traditionalism. This trend will only continue as the area continues to gain popularity as a commuter city to Washington.

One of the most striking images I have from Richmond was at the quintessential Old South site: The White House of the Confederacy. The VCU Hospital now snakes completely around the White House and Museum of the Confederacy campus. And those institutions are floudering. There has even been talk of moving the White House (though this is probably just bluster designed to raise awarness and fill coffers). The city has refused to grant the museum signage on the street, so tourist revenue is also down. A piece of the Old South floudering as it struggles to integrate itself into a city increasingly hostile to its legacy.


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At 11:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gov. Barnes in the middle of the night changed the Ga. flag, without any public input, which made many people angry, regardless of their flag preference, due to the secrecy. Sonny Perdue then ran for governor and won by promising Georgians than if elected he would let them have a vote on the flag. On this promise, he was voted in...not because he was a Republican. Well, there was a vote, but the choice of flags to vote on did not include the flag with the confederate bars and stripes! Then the signs went up that "Sonny lied", and they felt tricked for the second time. You stated that the election of Sonny turned Ga. "solidly red" but that is not accurate.


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