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The Atlanta Chamber of Commerce will produce reams of hype about the city this summer for the Democratic National Convention. In turn, the media will dutifully hype the rest of the nation about Atlanta.

But there is another side to Atlanta that has gone largely unreported by the U.S. Media.

Economic forces at work in Atlanta are “producing a new kind of segregation, which threatens to leave blacks out of the great job reshuffling that is taking place not only in the Jewel of the South but throughout the country.”

In Atlanta, corporations are moving their operations and jobs to Cobb and Gwinnett counties, two overwhelmingly white, affluent, Republican-voting suburbs to the north of Atlanta.

Though many media have profiled the MetroAtlanta economic renaissance, specifically highlighting Gwinnett County, the fastest growing county in the nation, most have failed to state that both Cobb and Gwinnett, though considered part of MetroAtlanta, do not share the tax base or government with the city.

Black citizens of Atlanta have no share in the new economic affluence profiled by the media. In fact, with the particulars of this MetroAtlanta economic demography in mind — no shared tax-base, no shared government, no shared public transportation system, new freeway project connecting outlying suburbs and bypassing inner city access, corporate flight, and the traditional (racist) dividing line of Interstate 20 — the proliferation of an economic apartheid is easily seen.

When asked why corporate development went north, J. Patrick Murphy, the senior vice president for economic development of Gwinnett County’s Chamber of Commerce, pulls out a map and points to Interstate 20, which runs from east to west straight through Atlanta, halving the metropolitan region. “Since before the time of the Civil War, it was understood that free blacks weren’t to come above this line. And most of them still live south of it,” says Murphy. “I suppose development just follows the money.”

David Beers and Diana Hembree, who explored this issue with support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism, said it “would be a mistake to interpret Atlanta’s racially skewed boom as peculiar to the South and growing mainly out of the region’s historical prejudices. It is probably more accurate to take Atlanta as it bills itself — as the shape of things to come. Similar growth patterns are occurring all over the United States, invariably favoring white suburbs and avoiding black urban centers.


THE NATION, 3/21/87, “The new Atlanta: A Tale of Two Cities,” by David Beers and Diana Hembree, pp 357-360.