Revisiting Atlanta’s 45-Year Reputation as the “Black Mecca”

By Todd M. Michney

This blogpost is in commemoration of Black History Month, a tradition started in 1926 by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) and which the Georgia Institute of Technology observes by sponsoring an annual lecture.

In 1971 Ebony magazine, the nation’s premier and most widely-read African American monthly serial, published an article by staff writer Phyl (Phyllis) Garland titled “Atlanta: Black Mecca of the South.”  Although it was not the first U.S. city to which that label was applied[1], the moniker stuck.  Coming on the eve of Maynard Jackson’s ascent to the mayoralty, the implications of Atlanta’s singular achievement and rising prominence among Southern cities, embodied in the term “mecca,” fit well with the city’s rapidly growing economy and carefully-managed image of steady progress toward racial equality.  Furthermore, as alluded to by the author herself, Garland’s article appeared at a time when opportunities for African Americans in larger Northern and Western metropolises were looking far less promising, with deindustrialization setting in and frustrations in many such cities’ black neighborhoods becoming manifest in a succession of riot-torn, “long, hot summers.”

First page of the original Ebony article “Atlanta: Black Mecca of the South,” courtesy Google Books/ Johnson Publishing.

Atlanta’s reputation as a Black Mecca has proven durable, although numerous commentators over the years have pointed out where the city falls short – some stridently – insofar as the benefits of economic growth have not been distributed equally either to African American Atlantans relative to whites, or among them as a group. This past November, Georgia State University’s Law School hosted a symposium entitled “Still the Black Mecca?  Race, Social Inequality, and Urban Displacement in 21st Century Atlanta,” featuring contributions from speakers including scholars, activists, and other community stakeholders. In a subsequent interview, one of the event’s co-organizers, Dr. Kali-Ashet Amen, explained its planners’ main underlying concern:  “[T]his symposium was explicitly about equity – not equal opportunity, not access, not ‘diversity’ – but rather, racial equity; which is to say, we are concerned with the evaluation of fairness and justice in both the policies and the business deals that are being brokered in the name of urban progress.”


Revisiting Garland’s original article offers us a chance to assess how Atlanta has lived up to the Black Mecca label over the past four decades, from our contemporary standpoint where so much has changed, even as striking continuities remain. While we readily recall her hopeful tone – which in fact characterized most of the accompanying articles in that issue of Ebony on the theme of “The South Today” – we typically forget that Garland’s subtitle was equivocal:  “Racial peace, prosperity are mixed with problems in this bustling boomtown.” Garland was neither a native booster of, nor a naïve believer in Atlanta’s supposed racial progressivism. Born in Pennsylvania and having started her career reporting on civil rights topics for the black-owned Pittsburgh Courier (famous for its militant “Double V” campaign during World War II), she went South in 1965 after joining Ebony, where she interviewed Fannie Lou Hamer among other black female activists in Mississippi, and reported on the early political gains from the Voting Rights Act. Just months before her “Atlanta: Black Mecca” article appeared, Garland had published another piece of reportage on the city, treating the campaign by the Community Coalition on Broadcasting which successfully pressured local radio stations to hire more African Americans in positions of authority. Incidentally, a striking contemporary parallel to this effort is a current lawsuit filed by black employees of CNN alleging the existence of a “glass ceiling” in hiring and promotion at this Atlanta-based company.

Maynard Jackson, courtesy of Google Books/Johnson Publishing

Garland’s tentative rendition of Atlanta as a mecca for black politics came as the election of its first African American mayor was looking increasingly likely – she mentioned a perception that Jackson had been “campaigning unofficially” ever since becoming vice-mayor – in no small part due to the city’s black proportion reaching a majority. An attempt to delay this eventuality had been the underlying impetus behind Mayor William Hartsfield’s successful push to annex large portions of unincorporated Fulton County in 1952, which tripled the size of Atlanta’s geographic area. “Now a healthy 51 per cent of the population, they have made their power felt on all levels of local government and anticipate the day when that slim margin will be so solidly reinforced that they might push open even bigger official doors,” Garland wrote. Among the notable recent political gains she mentioned were the election to a statehouse seat of civil rights and anti-Vietnam war activist Julian Bond, formerly with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and who attended Morehouse College; around the time the article appeared, he had co-founded the Southern Poverty Law Center. Still on the horizon was the entry into local politics of two other civil rights veterans:  John Lewis, also with SNCC, and Andrew Young, the former executive director of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Young had been instrumental in organizing SCLC’s “citizenship schools” that increased voter registration in rural areas; in 1972 he became the first African American elected to represent Georgia in Congress since Reconstruction, and in 1981 he would succeed Maynard Jackson as Atlanta’s second black mayor. Lewis – already famous as a Freedom Rider as well as for his role in the 1965 Selma march – had relocated to Atlanta in 1967 to head up the Voter Education Project. Following his election to Atlanta’s City Council in 1981, Lewis defeated Bond in a bitter 1986 contest for Young’s former 5th U.S. Congressional seat that Lewis still holds today. While Atlanta was not the first major U.S. city to elect an African American mayor, its unbroken succession of black mayoral leadership since 1973 is the longest-running in the country, with Detroit recently having broken a comparable streak in 2013. However, with the city’s African American population in decline due to black suburbanization and white gentrification, the likelihood of Atlanta continuing this tradition is no longer assured. In fact, changing demographics raise the question of whether the post-civil rights model of black political leadership in Atlanta and elsewhere may be moribund.

Atlanta’s black-owned businesses constituted perhaps the most hopeful note in Garland’s “Black Mecca” article, as she referenced a recently-coined Nixonian phrase in concluding “black capitalism has been practiced . . . [in Atlanta] long before it was given a name.” Receiving particular attention for having just completed its twelve-story headquarters was the Citizens Trust Co., founded in 1921 by Heman Perry, a black businessman and real estate developer of the then-suburban Washington Park neighborhood. Currently the fourth-largest black-owned bank in the country, Citizens Trust remains true to its roots of lending on homes, and recently saw a spike in new account openings as a result of Atlanta hip-hop artist and social activist Killer Mike’s #BankBlack campaign. Yet despite such efforts, African American-owned financial institutions in Atlanta and elsewhere have struggled to remain solvent; Mutual Federal Savings and Loan Co., another institution mentioned in the article and a longtime landmark on the city’s historic Auburn Avenue, did not fare as well, closing in 2000. Alonzo Herndon, Atlanta’s first African American millionaire and founder of the Atlanta Life Insurance Co. – currently the second-largest such black-owned firm in the country – also received mention, alongside T.M. Alexander, another pioneer in that industry who had famously insured cars owned by Montgomery Bus Boycott supporters when their coverage was punitively discontinued. Garland also mentioned the city’s foremost black builder of the 1950s, Walter H. “Chief” Aiken, as well as the up-and-coming black developer of the 1960s, Herman J. Russell. Russell’s was among those black-owned construction companies that benefited from Mayor Jackson’s expansion of affirmative action programs (begun under his predecessor Sam Massell), which ensured that one-quarter of contracts for the Hartsfield Airport expansion were reserved for minority-owned firms. An article in Black Enterprise several years later lauded Russell, even as it hinted at the fragility of the city’s more than 2,000 black-owned businesses at the time. Strikingly, while Russell’s company remains among Atlanta’s top five largest African American firms along with Citizens Trust, a food service business and two car dealerships now share that distinction. Furthermore, Atlanta’s black business enterprises are increasingly more prominently associated with the recording, film, and television industry, symbolized in the latter case by the success of Donald Glover’s “Atlanta” series on FX.

Courtesy Google Books/Johnson Publishing

Finally, even as Garland celebrated Atlanta’s upwardly-mobile black middle class, she pointed to the glaring ways that working-class and poor African Americans were being left out of the city’s growing economy. One photo featured a husband and wife who both were elementary school teachers, noting “[h]ome ownership is the great pride of black Atlantans . . . [but] most of these people are not rich . . . [p]eople are killing themselves to maintain a certain standard of living,”[2] pictured left, while another depicted a young child in Vine City, “an inner-city poverty pocket untouched by Atlanta’s reputation for affluence” (pictured below and right).

Courtesy Google Books/Johnson Publishing

 Even as Garland pointed to “verdant neighborhoods that are the true pride and joy of the city’s black citizenry” – Collier Heights, Cascade Heights, and Peyton Forest (this last one the site of modern Atlanta’s arguably most embarrassing incident of racial intolerance) – she noted “[t]here are 160,000 people living in poverty here and two-thirds of them are black.”  State Representative Julian Bond summarized the situation: “This is the best place in the United States for a black [person] if you’re middle-class and have a college degree, but if you’re poor, it’s just like Birmingham, Jackson or any other place.” Furthermore, white flight from outlying city neighborhoods was an ongoing problem, leading Garland to conclude “Evidently Atlanta is not quite ready for integrated housing.” Demographic turnover additionally had ramifications for the city’s ability to achieve public school integration, which despite an initial move in 1961 toward compliance with the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board ruling, was essentially stalled; a 1968 report had noted that 98 percent of African American children still attended all-black schools, and 65 percent of public elementary schools were “totally segregated.” Metro Atlanta still exhibits divergent outcomes for African Americans on the basis of class. On the one hand, suburban Clayton and Fayette are two of only seven counties in the entire country where blacks’ average income exceeds that of whites; at the same time, the metropolitan area ranks near the bottom among U.S. cities in terms of its potential for upward mobility. There is evidence that Atlanta’s elimination of its entire traditional public housing inventory further exacerbated inequality among African Americans, and while there is still an argument to be made that the city constitutes a “mecca” for the black middle class, even the most prosperous have been disproportionately impacted by the Great Recession, with many families experiencing downward mobility. Meanwhile, the failures of school desegregation have followed African Americans to the suburbs.


Much has changed in Atlanta since 1971 when Garland wrote the article that cemented the city’s reputation as a “Black Mecca.” Not only has white population decline reversed since 1990; Latinos and Asians now constitute an increasingly significant and growing share.  LGBTQ Atlantans, newly visible at the time the original article appeared, now stand at the forefront of the contemporary local civil rights movement. In the words of Dr. Kali-Ashet Amen, mentioned above as a co-organizer of the recent “Still the Black Mecca?” symposium: “[F]or the black mecca to be true to its name in the present moment, we are going to need a practical vision of multiracial, queer, and immigrant equity that is grounded in political commitments to black and brown thriving. Without that kind of intentionality, and multiracial mobilizing toward those ends, the black mecca idea loses all foundation.” With the benefit of a historical perspective – making clear that this concept from the outset was never understood so much as an established reality as a work-in-progress – we can better chart where we need to move, in order to rectify past injustices and make our city a more equitable place for everyone.


[1] New York (specifically Harlem), Washington, DC as the first black-majority city, and even New Orleans had previously been designated as the “colored” or “Negro mecca”; note that some white observers used the term in a derogatory way.

[2] On similar strategies by dual-income black couples elsewhere, see Todd M. Michney, Surrogate Suburbs: Black Upward Mobility and Neighborhood Change in Cleveland, 1900-1980 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017).

Open Government Data Policies

by Emma French

Governments at many levels collect large amounts of data every year through their programs and daily operations. Fueled by the belief that data produced by any government is the property of the tax-paying citizens, the open data movement seeks to make government data easily accessible and available to the public. Advocates argue that opening government data can increase government transparency and accountability, enable meaningful citizen participation in policy and decision-making processes, and spur economic growth and innovation in unforeseeable ways.

Open data policies are being passed all over the world to institutionalize the culture of open data and maximize the potential benefits derived from releasing data. In the last decade there has been a notable increase in the number of open data policies passed in the United States (see Figure 1 below). In 2006, Washington D.C. was the first local government to pass an open data executive directive. In 2009 the first of two federal open government directives was issued by the Obama Administration, and local policies were adopted in Memphis, Portland and San Francisco. According to the Sunlight Foundation there are now at least two federal, ten state, nine county, and 46 city-level open data policies in the United States.

Figure 1. This graph shows the number of open data policies (including local, state and federal) passed in the United States between 2006 and 2016. (Note: Some governments have passed multiple policies, often starting with an executive order and then moving to an ordinance or administrative policy. This graph counts each new policy individually regardless of whether or not a policy already existed in that city). Data source: Sunlight Foundation

Despite the importance of local policy, scant research has been done on the prevalence and effectiveness of open data policies at the city level. In an attempt to fill this gap, CUI researchers recently conducted a study to examine the variation that exists among city level open data policies in the United States. Twelve policies were assessed based on their potential to increase transparency, public participation, and economic innovation (Table 1).

Table 1. Selected Open Data Policies

City Population (2015) Year of Adoption Legal Means


Implementing Agency Stated Policy Purpose
Pittsburgh, PA



304,391 2014 Ordinance Open Data Management Team (new team incl. reps from each city dept. and chaired by the Chief of Innovation and Performance) Transparency; cross-sector coordination; local software innovation; government efficiency; open by default
Minneapolis, MN



410,939 2014 Ordinance Open Data Advisory Group (new team incl. Chief Information Officer and Open Data Coordinator from each dept.) Transparency; government efficiency; public participation; economic innovation; social progress; collaboration
Kansas City, MO 475,378 2015 Ordinance Chief Data Officer (reports to the City Manager) Transparency; Innovation by government, public or other partners
Tulsa, OK


403,505 2015 Executive Order Open Data Advisory Board (new team) Transparency; public participation; efficiency; economic opportunity
Chattanooga, TN



176,588 2014 Executive Order Open Data Advisory Group (new team incl. the Chief Information Officer and reps from each city agency); Office of Open Data and Performance Management (created 2015) Transparency; civic engagement; economic development; improved coordination and efficiency among cross-sector organizations
Cincinnati, OH







298,550 2014 Administrative Regulation Open Data Working Group (new team incl. Open Data coordinators from each of the city’s departments); Open Data Executive Committee (new team diff. from Open Data Working Group) Transparency
Baltimore, MD 621,849 2016 Ordinance Chief Data Officer; Department Open Data Coordinators Innovative uses by city agencies, the public and other partners
San Francisco, CA 864,816 2013 Ordinance Chief Data Officer; Department Data Coordinators Transparency; mobilize high-tech workforce to create civil tools and applications; social and economic innovation; empowering citizens to participate; job creation; public-private partnerships
New York City, NY 8,550,405 2012 Local Administrative Law Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Transparency; intra- and inter-governmental interoperability; public participation; innovative strategies for social progress; economic opportunities
Washington D.C. 672,228 2014 Executive Directive Chief Data Officer (CDO); Open Government Advisory Group (new group incl. Mayor’s designee, the Chief Data Officer, and Director of the Office of Open Government) Transparency; public participation; collaboration; effective government; economic development; public trust in government
Charlotte, NC


827,097 2015 Administrative Policy Department of Innovation and Technology (existing group) Transparency; civic engagement; economic development; investment; public confidence in government
Houston, TX




2,296,224 2014 Administrative Policy Enterprise Data Officer (EDO); Open Data Advisory Board (new group) Transparency; civic engagement; cross-sector collaboration; efficiency; societal improvement; economic growth

The policies were analyzed by controlling for the transparency of the process through which they were created (open vs. closed) as well as the size of the city in which they were created (small vs. large). Ordinances were included in the open policy creation category, and executive orders and administrative policies comprised the closed category.

Three indexes were developed using proxies to assess the potential for each of the policies to increase transparency, public participation and economic innovation. For this study transparency is defined as the willingness of a government be open and accountable to the public. Public participation is the degree to which citizens are meaningfully involved in government policy and decision-making processes. Economic innovation is the degree to which citizens, entrepreneurs, and businesses are empowered to produce new innovative services and products. Table 2 below lists the indicators used for each index. Indicators with ‘SF’ by them were borrowed from the Sunlight Foundation’s Open Data Policy Guidelines.

Table 2. Indexes for Evaluating Open Data Policies

Transparency Index
Proactively release government information online (SF)
Create a public, comprehensive list of all information holdings (SF)
Specify methods of prioritization of data release (SF)
Stipulate that provisions apply to contractors or quasi-governmental agencies (SF)
Create central location for data publication (SF)
Require publishing metadata (SF)
Appropriately safeguard sensitive information (SF)
Public Participation Index
Incorporated public perspectives into open data policy making process
Require incorporation of public perspectives into policy implementation (SF)
Mandate data formats for maximal technical access (SF)
City has created an open data portal
Citizens can request new data via the website
Citizens can ask for help with data use via the website
City has offered free trainings on data access and use
Economic Innovation Index
Place data in the public domain or make available through an open license (SF)
Portal has an API to encourage developers to use the data
Competitions or hackathons to encourage use
Create/explore potential partnerships with other governments or institutions (SF)

This study’s findings support the claim that on average open data policies created through an open process have greater potential to increase transparency, public participation, and economic innovation than those created through a closed process. On average policies in larger cities scored higher in terms of transparency and economic innovation, however policies created in smaller cities scored higher in terms of their potential to increase public participation. Barriers to successful open data policies include restrictive licensing, closed formatting, privacy concerns and uneven access to the technology and knowledge to use open data. Policies that embrace meaningful transparency, public participation and cross-sector collaboration can support the creation of urban innovation ecosystems that promote use of open data.

Recommendations for governments creating an open data policy

  1. Address privacy concerns directly and proactively

Critics of open data will try to use this as a way to prevent opening up access to public data. In order to minimize this barrier it is critical that cities address privacy and security concerns up front.

  1. Be open, but also strategic

In order to realize the full economic and innovative potential of open data, open data policies need to require open formatting of data that allows for easy use, re-use, and integration. Data should be dedicated to the public domain or made available through an open license. Cities should make sure that restrictions are limited in order to maximize the potential for the data to be turned into public value. At the same time, it is important to be strategic when crafting policies and plans.

  1. Great policies aren’t enough

In order to transform open data into public value, cities need to collaborate across sectors and political jurisdictions. They need to start thinking about the public not as a client, but as a potential partner whose personal experiences can help inform the city’s work. The focus needs to be less on the supply-side, and more on the demand-side (Janssen, Charalabidis, and Zuiderwijk 2012; Conradie and Choenni 2014). Cities should be intentional about creating a culture of openness internally in order to nurture an ecosystem for open innovation more broadly (Schaffers et al. 2011).


Open data has no intrinsic value; rather, its value is dependent on its use. Open data policies can support cities’ efforts to increase transparency, public participation and economic innovation. However, policies alone are not enough to achieve these goals, and in some cases they may actually inhibit such innovation from taking place. The findings from this study support the claim that open data policies created though open processes have, on average, greater potential to increase transparency, public participation, and economic innovation than those created through a closed process. Cross-disciplinary and cross-sector collaboration were identified as integral to promoting greater interoperability and to expanding use of open data to support innovation. Future research is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of city-level open data polices, and to better understand the processes through which open data is used to create public value. 

An Interview with Todd Michney about “Surrogate Suburbs”

By Todd Michney & Thomas Lodato

Dr. Todd Michney is a visiting assistant professor in the School of History and Sociology at the Georgia Institute of Technology, a member of the research team of the Center for Urban Innovation, and now the author of “Surrogate Suburbs: Black Upward Mobility and Neighborhood Change in Cleveland, 1900–1980” available in March 2017 on The University of North Carolina Press. The following is an interview with Dr. Michney about his forthcoming book.

Thomas: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me about your book. The title of the book is really intriguing, and seems like a good place to start the conversation. What you mean by “surrogate suburbs”? What does surrogate connote in this context, and how do these neighborhoods differ from typical suburbs?


Todd: Our understanding of “how the suburbs happened” -– with federal, state, and local policies like redlining and zoning shaping unequal access on the basis of race –- has grown dramatically in the past two decades. Small pockets of African American settlement did exist on the suburban periphery from the early twentieth century on, a phenomenon explored by historians like Andrew Wiese. However, the vast majority of African Americans were prevented from living in suburbs, which actually became more exclusive with the advent of mass suburbanization in the 1940s and 1950s, when large numbers of middle and working class whites were enabled to become homeowners through preferential financing arrangements like FHA- and VA-insured mortgages. Therefore, for nearly the entire period I cover in the book, upwardly-mobile middle class blacks searching for better-quality housing outside of crowded, inner-city neighborhoods gravitated to the “outer city,” peripheral neighborhoods that took on significance as what I call “surrogate suburbs.” Arriving as early as 1900 and initially settling in compact enclaves, they strove to build sustainable communities and expanded into previously all-white areas in the decades after World War II. Many such outlying city neighborhoods contained recently-built, single-family housing, further underlining the significance of these places for middle-class African Americans as “surrogate suburbs.” This situation continued until the civil rights reforms of the 1960s began to open up at least some bona fide suburbs to black homebuyers, a dynamic that gained momentum by the late 1970s. Today just over half of African Americans live in the suburbs, and while a middle-class (often elderly) remnant still lives in the outer-city areas I study, many are disproportionately burdened with foreclosures and other challenges also facing some “inner ring” suburbs since the Great Recession.

Thomas: Your book offers a counter-narrative to how many historians explain the experiences of black people during this period of urban change and discriminatory planning practices. Could you briefly contextualize who and what you are responding to, and why you think these accounts are insufficient?

Todd: The policies I mentioned earlier -– along with federally-funded urban redevelopment plans and interstate highways that displaced large numbers of mostly poor, nonwhite urban residents while facilitating white suburbanization -– have been explicated by historians like Arnold Hirsch and Thomas Sugrue as determinative: these scholars argued that African Americans were essentially powerless in the face of large-scale structural forces, which were compounded even further by institutionalized racial discrimination in employment and the antagonism of white residents –- who in cities like Chicago, Detroit, Birmingham, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and yes, Atlanta, not infrequently resorted to violence in attempting to maintain racial segregation. This scholarship was incredibly important, and extremely valuable because it served to counteract popular narratives blaming the racially-polarizing 1960s (and black residents themselves) for urban “decline.” However, I argue that this rendition underestimates the agency and ability of upwardly-mobile African Americans to formulate creative strategies for acquiring land, financing, and housing, and for building and maintaining communities at the urban periphery. In Cleveland, which is my case study, some such methods included securing financing through black-owned insurance companies, tapping the expertise of African American building tradesmen, allying with politically-progressive whites and lobbying the city administration for equal protection (in securing access to public swimming pools, for example), and leveraging white fears about property values to generate rapid turnover of newer, desirable housing. Some such strategies proved controversial, and even middle class blacks faced discrimination and the creeping effects of disinvestment that eventually reached these outer-city neighborhoods. However, African American residents of these areas maintained their viability at least until 1980 and surely did not imagine them as what Arnold Hirsch termed a “second ghetto” enabled by racially discriminatory housing policy.

Thomas: I know you are a native Clevelander. Beyond living in the area, how did your experience growing up in Cleveland influence your research in terms how you understand black upward mobility or the particular angle you present?

Todd: Probably my most formative early experiences here came through my father who worked as a teacher and guidance counselor in the Cleveland Public Schools, specifically in the overwhelmingly-black East Side neighborhoods that I would ultimately come to study. Two of his older co-workers who became dear family friends were typical of the home-owning black middle class I profile in the book: dual-income families with working wives, which was actually an economic strategy upwardly-mobile African Americans pioneered before it became mainstream. One of the husbands had been a chauffeur starting in the 1930s, a service job but well-paid with considerable responsibility entailing proximity to wealthy and powerful whites; driving for the local gas company, he purchased stock shares that along with his wife’s work as a teacher’s aide cemented their economic security. I also attended a Catholic grade school for three years which was about one-third black, being located in Shaker Heights, nationally known for its race relations initiatives since becoming a destination for upwardly-mobile African Americans in the late 1950s; and, I grew up in the suburban Orange School district which has a historic African American enclave in Woodmere, as well as a large Jewish population. In Cleveland among other cities, Jewish neighborhoods frequently transitioned to become black ones, a dynamic that was especially pronounced because Cleveland not only had one of the largest Jewish populations of any major city, it had the second-highest percentage of Jewish population after New York.

Thomas: As you mention, the book provides an account of black upward mobility that does not simply paint black residents as victims of structural forces, such as the well-known practice of redlining. Instead, you seek to historicize how black residents navigated the social, political, and financial landscape of Cleveland to own land, establish neighborhoods, and countermand segregation. As such, agency is an important concept for you, and comes to the fore through a host of strategies and tactics employed by residents. Could you provide a few instances of how residents both exercised and understood their agency?

Todd: Before answering the question, I want to provide a little background for where the evidence came from. Besides my conventional training as a historian, I benefitted from nearly five years’ work as an archivist, which made me proficient at using organizational records and personal papers; my source base for the book is quite a bit more “manuscript intensive” even than many other similar 20th century historical monographs. I also learned to conduct oral histories, which allowed me to ask questions of informants about topics not covered in the written record; in all, I conducted about seventy-five interviews with current and former neighborhood residents. Working at the Western Reserve Historical Society also familiarized me with doing genealogical research and specifically sources like the U.S. Census, city directories, and marriage and death records; becoming interested in how African Americans acquired land and property, I went further and taught myself to use public records like deeds, mortgages, and building permits that can reveal the contours of ordinary people’s lives. Learning to use GIS, I used these data sources to map African American settlement and homeownership patterns with unprecedented precision. It also allowed me to illustrate black homeseekers’ agency and visualize their housing choices which might not otherwise have been so readily apparent.


I found numerous examples of African Americans exercising agency in various ways, over nearly the entire course of the 20th century. These included purchasing land before race-based deed restrictions could be applied, and tapping all available financing streams –- even profit-minded whites willing to issue them mortgages. Researching the individuals involved, I concluded some of these transactions came through face-to-face work and business relations –- the wife of a white dentist with offices in Cleveland’s main, inner-city black residential district lending to (presumably) one of his clients for a house in an outlying African American settlement, for example. A number of black men used creative self-employment –- purchasing a truck for hauling being a notable one -– to circumnavigate the racially-discriminatory job market. And in the decades after World War II when the neighborhoods I study became overwhelmingly African American, organized middle-class residents formulated an intensely local, nearly all-encompassing reform agenda based around quality-of-life issues, chalking up some notable successes such as restricting the availability of liquor and winning traffic safety and infrastructural improvements.

Thomas: As you well know, Atlanta has complicated racial history, much of which is still evident in the current shape of the city, from roads abruptly changing names to placement of highways and parks. One current controversy deals with the BeltLine, a light-rail line that will circle the city that the New York Times recently referred to as “a glorified sidewalk”. From the beginning, many have criticized the BeltLine because of its “lopsided investment” that neglects historically black neighborhoods. Recently two prominent figures in shaping the BeltLine stepped down because of the lack of affordable housing initially-planned-but-seemingly-forgotten as a priority. Given your research and recent move to Atlanta, could you reflect on this current development project in light of your book?

Todd: One theme to emerge from my research is the value African Americans have placed on green space (parks, playgrounds), as well as the idea that recreation could provide a healthy outlet for youth who otherwise might resort to “unwholesome” activities. This older middle-class worldview may seem a bit naïve and outdated now, but there is a line of reasoning with continuity to today’s understanding of the BeltLine as providing an unqualified good in terms of recreational space and green infrastructure. Gentrification in Cleveland (as compared to Atlanta) is limited to certain neighborhoods having historical cachet, and does not result in the same degree of population displacement because there is still a substantial oversupply of housing in the city and metropolitan area as a whole. The neighborhoods I cover in Surrogate Suburbs are not seeing a substantial influx of younger, more affluent buyers, although there are a few developments of rehabilitated historic properties and new townhouses that are attracting mainly young black professionals. There is also a push to install more bicycle lanes as an eco-friendly form of transport that may constitute a parallel to what we’re currently seeing in Atlanta.

Thomas: This summer prominent Black Lives Matters supporter, political activist, and rapper Michael Render (aka Killer Mike) advocated that people move money to black-own financial institutions, such as Citizens Trust Bank (based in Atlanta) in order to put pressure on governments, politicians, and the private sector to address claims of systemic injustice (including police violence) targeting people of color. In your book, you mention the role of black financial institutions in breaking down de facto segregation. Could you explain how these financial institutions fostered such change?

Todd: Excellent to mention the example of Citizens Trust, which put up the money to build quite a few Atlanta subdivisions for black middle-class buyers.  In Cleveland, African American-owned financial institutions also provided crucial lifelines to a small but significant portion of the community despite being somewhat fragile. There were several black-owned Cleveland banks and mortgage companies in the pre-Great Depression era, one of which purchased a large tract of land in the city’s southeastern corner that offered African American buyers better life opportunities, not to mention its significance in setting the future vectors of black population expansion into the metro area’s southeastern suburbs. Although these institutions went under as a result of the Depression, a more stable one (Quincy Savings & Loan Co.) emerged in the post-World War II era, which made many loans that helped expand black access to new neighborhoods, including in suburbs like Shaker Heights. Black-owned insurance companies in Cleveland and elsewhere also frequently financed mortgages when mainstream banks were unwilling to do so. Interestingly, these companies typically saw themselves as business-minded and not necessarily obligated to attack the segregated housing market of the time. Quincy’s bank director, asked whether that institution might refuse to do business with white-controlled banks in order to leverage fairer lending practices, said “we’re not trying to do any race relations job,” but rather to make a profit for their investors. In other words, he was confident that the purchasing power of the African American buyers whose home loans they approved, as well as the investors who purchased stock in the company could not help but contribute toward rectifying the situation. Although this seems overly optimistic in retrospect, it was a common mentality among upwardly-mobile middle class blacks during the period I study, especially in the 1950s and early 1960s. It also did not preclude civil rights activity –- another one of Cleveland’s black city councilmen, who introduced a fair housing ordinance, also sat on Quincy’s board of directors at the time.

Thomas: Now that you have finished this book, what’s next? How are you carrying over your research interests into new projects and publications?

Todd: In completing the book I became especially intrigued by Southern-trained black building tradesmen, many of whom migrated north starting in the World War I era and who encountered discrimination in the white-dominated building trades, yet still provided hundreds of homes plus built institutions like black churches and fraternal lodges. In my next project, I expect to explore the kinds of training they received at historically-black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and how black builders and developers successfully operated in the racially-segregated housing markets of the pre-civil rights era. One of the country’s most successful black builders was based right here in Atlanta: W.H. (“Chief”) Aiken. I recently learned of an African American-owned construction firm, founded in the 1950s, that built numerous homes in the Bankhead area, and I hope to interview family members who still run a successor firm.

Thomas: Todd, thanks so much for taking time to answer my questions.

The Handbook of Manufacturing Industries in the World Economy (2015): Now Available in Paperback

by Jennifer Clark

manufacturing-front-cover The Handbook of Manufacturing Industries in the World Economy, edited by John Bryson of the Birmingham Business School, Jennifer Clark of the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Vida Vanchan of Buffalo State is now available in a paperback edition.

The Handbook of Manufacturing Industries in the World Economy provides a critical and multi-disciplinary state-of-the-art review and analysis of current manufacturing processes, practices and policies. Expanding our knowledge and understanding of production and innovation, this collection demonstrates that manufacturing continues to matter in the world economy.

The contributors, including scholars ranging from engineering to policy to economic geography, cover manufacturing policy and the revival of the industrial base in the US, UK and Canada and engage national and regional strategies for implementing advanced manufacturing policies. Questions of economic resilience in the wake of the recent recession are asked, and industry and firm case studies are utilized in an international comparative context. Applying a wide range of international cases from the US, EU, Australia and Asia, this approach allows readers to view transformations in production systems and processes across sectors, technologies and industries.

Students, scholars and policymakers in the fields of public policy, economic geography, city and regional planning, and business and management will find this collection invaluable in understanding how firms and industries adapt, through dynamic and design-driven strategies, to produce for established and emerging markets.

Chapters highlight how firms and industries modify existing processes to produce for established and emerging markets through dynamic and design-driven strategies. This approach allows readers to view transformations in production systems and processes across sectors, technologies and industries.

In the foreword, Sir Mike Gregory from the University of Cambridge, UK comments, “This book represents a major contribution to our thinking about modern manufacturing industries – and is not just timely, it is long overdue! The authors have done an outstanding job in bringing to bear a range of multi-disciplinary perspectives on a domain which all too often suffers from rather narrow disciplinary analyses. Ranging from engineering to social science and drawing on examples from the US, Europe and Asia, the book provides not only a wealth of fact and illustration but a rich landscape to inform those charged with industrial policy and manufacturing strategies.”

In his book review in Economic Geography, Douglas Gress wrote, ‘In [The]Handbook of Manufacturing Industries in the World Economy, editors Bryson, Clark, and Vanchan offer up a welcome addition to the manufacturing literature replete with valuable contributions from immensely competent researchers . . . The strengths of the Handbook are immediately apparent, and include the fact that contributions are provided by seasoned scholars, active scholars in mid-career, and budding scholars alike. The editors have thus ensured that the Handbook is well grounded while remaining topically fresh.’

Frank Giarratani, Center for Industry Studies, University of Pittsburgh further commented on the book that, ‘As industry practitioners know well from experience, generalization is hard to come by. Whether it’s manufacturing, services, or something in between, it’s the details that seem to matter most when it comes to determining outcomes. The value in this book is enormous because details tell the stories across a diverse set of industries. I applaud the editors and authors on their substantial achievement. Manufacturing and related supply chains are dynamic, and this book is rich with information that offers deeper understanding about the processes involved.’

The book is available from the publisher, Edward Elgar, as well as other venues such as

The book, organized into five sections and over thirty chapters, includes the following contributions:

Manufacturing Matters: Space, Place, Time and Production
Jennifer Clark, John R. Bryson and Vida Vanchan


  1. Manufacturing Management in Theory and Practice
    Paul L. Forrester
  1. Manufacturing and Labor
    Sally Weller
  1. How Does Financialization Affect Manufacturing Investment? Preliminary Evidence from the US and UK
    Susan Christopherson
  1. Manufacturing Logistics
    Peter V. Hall
  1. Reshoring and the ‘Manufacturing Moment’
    Margaret Cowell and John Provo
  1. Relocation of Production Activities and Underlying Social Dynamics: An Analytical Framework based on a Canadian Perspective
    Patrice Jalette
  1. Tool-less Manufacture: Digital Fabrication, 3D Printing and the Third Industrial Revolution
    Michael Ward
  1. Engineering and Manufacturing: Concurrent Maturation of xRL
    Ben Wang, William C. Kessler and Andrew Dugenske
  1. Energy and Manufacturing: Technology and Policy Transformations and Challenges
    Marilyn A. Brown and Gyungwon Kim
  1. Design and Manufacturing: The Competitiveness of American, European and Chinese Industrial Design Companies
    Vida Vanchan and John R. Bryson
  1. Intellectual Property and Patents: Knowledge Creation and Diffusion
    Dieter F. Kogler


  1. Manufacturing Textile Futures: Innovation, Adaptation and the UK Textiles Industry
    Megan Ronayne
  1. Finding a Future for the US Furniture Industry
    Susan Walcott
  1. New Geographies of Advanced Manufacturing: The Case of Machine Tools
    Ronald V. Kalafsky
  1. Farm Machinery: A Changing Path to Feed the World
    Dawn M. Drake
  1. Hidden in Plain Sight: The North American Optics and Photonics Industry
    Jennifer Clark
  1. Traditional and Emerging Markets in the Global Steel Supply Chain
    Carey Durkin Treado
  1. Intermediate Manufacturing: Profit, Dependency and Value Attainment in Supply Chains
    Rachel Mulhall
  1. Aerospace Manufacturing: Past, Present and Future
    Colin G. Drury
  1. Manufacturing Stoke: Emergence, Transformation and Consolidation in the Surfboard Industry
    Andrew Warren and Chris Gibson
  1. Migrant Manufacturing: Translocal Production and the Establishment of a Polish Bakery in Birmingham, UK
    Catherine Harris
  1. Skoda Auto: The Transformation from a Domestic to a Tier Two Lead Firm
    Petr Pavlínek
  1. Samsung: Restructuring, Innovation, and Global Networks
    Sam Ock Park


  1. Stability Amid Industrial Change: The Geography of U.S. Deindustrialization since 1980
    Marc Doussard and Greg Schrock
  1. Searching for Advanced Manufacturing in the United Kingdom and United States: Definitions, Measurement and Public Policy
    Finbarr Livesey
  1. National Manufacturing Policy, Local Real Estate Markets, and the Missing Region: Prospects for Urban Industrial Development in the US
    Laura Wolf-Powers
  1. The City and Industry: Deurbanizing Manufacturing in New York City?
    Lynn McCormick
  1. Manufacturing in the Knowledge Economy: Innovation in Low-tech Industries
    Teis Hansen and Lars Winther
  1. Crafting a Comeback: Cultivating an Innovative Ecosystem in Mature Regions
    Maryann Feldman and Lauren Lanahan
  1. From Skill Mismatch to Reinterpretation: Challenges and Solutions for Manufacturing Worker Retention and Recruitment
    Nichola J. Lowe

Regeneration Economies: Manufacturing as the Next Industrial Revolution
Jennifer Clark, John R. Bryson and Vida Vanchan

Is it Time for a North America Week of Cities and Regions? Capturing the Potential of Urban Innovation Through Distributed Networks

by Jennifer Clark


Since 2003, the European Union’s Committee of the Regions has convened local, regional, national, European, and global decision-makers and experts in Brussels each October for the European Week of Cities and Regions — more than 100 workshops, debates, exhibitions, and networking opportunities. Working with organizing partners like the European Commission’s DG for Regional Policy and the Regional Studies Association, the European Week of Cities and Regions attracts over 6000 participants.

The goal of these annual meetings is to share innovative policies and projects across the cities and regions of EU member states through direct exchange rather than the top-down replication of the models that filter up from cities and regions to national and EU experts and only then diffuse back down to cities and regions.  Instead, the Week of Cities and Regions allows local policy experts to share success stories, challenges, and models directly with each other while simultaneously learning from national and international experts.  In other words, the European Week of Cities and Regions has, more than a decade after its first iteration, become a predictable and regular opportunity for policy researchers and designers, as well as those tasked with policy implementation, to check in and check out what works, what doesn’t, and focus on tailoring broad national and regional goals for local implementation.

In 2015, the Center for Urban Innovation’s Director, Jennifer Clark, was invited to talk in Brussels at that year’s European Week of Regions and Cities. Dr. Clark spoke on ‘Working Regions’: Rethinking Regional Manufacturing Policy, during a panel themed around “Rethinking regional-level industrial policies for the ‘new manufacturing.'” The talk highlighted analysis and policies discussed in her 2013 book, Working Regions: Reconnecting Innovation and Production in the Knowledge Economy. Working Regions focuses on policy aimed at building sustainable and resilient regional economies in the wake of the global recession. Using examples of four ‘working regions’ — regions where research and design functions and manufacturing still coexist in the same cities — the book argues for a new approach to regional economic development. It does this by highlighting policies that foster innovation and manufacturing in small firms, focus research centers on pushing innovation down the supply chain, and support dynamic, design-driven firm networks.

For the 2016 European Week of Cities and Regions, Dr. Clark was also invited to speak on the a panel themed: Is EU manufacturing ready for Industry 4.0? on October 13th at the European Commission. The panel is organized by Professor Lisa DePropis from the Birmingham Business School at the University of Birmingham and includes Professors Patrizio Bianchi and Steffen Kinkel as well as Dr. Clark. The entire schedule for the European Week of Cities and Regions is available here.

The panel will focus on emerging themes and regional policy issues around manufacturing and Industry 4.0. In 2015, the European Commission (DG for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs) and the European Parliament started to raise awareness that a new manufacturing model was emerging: this is referred to as Industry 4.0, or smart manufacturing. Technological change, digitalization, and a new demand are driving a ‘production organisation revolution’ that is redefining the nature of the manufacturing sector and its contribution to the wider economy.

Industry 4.0 is argued to mean more servitized — that is, with increased value due to an added service component — and customized manufacturing goods, as well as the pervasive exploitation of key enabling technologies across all sectors. Industry 4.0 is believed to offer a unique opportunity to upgrade EU industrial capability, to reshore competencies and functions, and to repopulate advanced industry systems across regions to secure jobs and prosperity. Despite the hype on Industry 4.0, it is still unclear what the triggers and drivers are in the EU context, and also what its constraints and headwinds might be. Speakers will discuss what it means and what it will take to align EU regions and EU manufacturing sectors to Industry 4.0.

Now, it is true that the EU, as an organization, has been exceedingly active in urban and regional policy design and implementation. For example, the EU’s Cohesion Policies have long sought to promote sustainable growth across EU regions and mitigate inequalities.  Recent regional policies include the Smart Specialisation (SP3) and Industry 4.0/smart manufacturing.  The US has often left urban and regional policy innovation to the state and local level. What these panels about these particular topics illustrate are the ways in which national policy priorities are necessarily connected to local and regional implementation.  And what’s more, they show how that implementation can be more effective when coordinated at the policy design phase, not simply assessed after deployment.

The benefits to the US of engaging in a similar approach — exchanging innovative policy models for urban and regional growth and development — is worth considering, as is its potential advantages for its neighbors, Canada and Mexico. The benefits of that knowledge exchange are well understood in the broader policy community. We at the Center for Urban Innovation have observed and documented the proliferation of ad hoc policy diffusion networks over the past half-decade across the US (and internationally). Examples include the Bloomberg Foundation’s Innovation Delivery Teams, WeWorkCities, the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities, the City Energy Project, and many more.

This ad hoc approach tends to privilege certain places and certain policy priorities.  In other words, the participants and the policies promoted are selective rather than representative. Perhaps it is time to create a formal, predictable structure for this exchange of project models and innovative approaches to urban and regional governance.  The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has moved in this direction with its support of smart cities initiatives, through the launch of city-university partnerships organized through the MetroLab Network.  This week, the White House also announced the Local Frontiers track at the White House Frontiers Conference, in which we will participate. This track is another example of a step in the direction paved by the Week of Cities and Regions. Such efforts signal an awareness and recognition of the value of convenings similar to those seen in the EU.  The model already exists for a Week of Cities and Regions, and it is a model with a decade long track record of successful knowledge exchange. Is it time for a North America Week of Cities and Regions? It seems we have reached the moment for capturing the promise and potential of urban innovation by acknowledging, valuing, and enabling the work of urban and regional policy professionals across the US by creating our own annual convening of the people who design and conduct policy in our cities and regions.

Immigration in Georgia: The GIRN And “Welcoming Cities” Forum

By Anna Joo Kim, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
School of City & Regional Planning
Georgia Institute of Technology

Atlanta envisions itself a new Global City (Sassen, 2000), with the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport—the world’s busiest—a hub of economic development, spurred by the addition of about 250,000 new immigrants from India, South Korea, Mexico, Ethiopia, and other countries between 2000 and 2010. Data from the 1990, 2000, and 2010 census surveys indicate that the metropolitan area has become more African American, more Latino/Hispanic, and more Asian each year. Population growth in Georgia over the last 30 years has been largely driven by minority groups settlement patterns; and we saw the addition of Georgia’s first ever “majority-minority” county, with Gwinnett County joining 78 other counties in the United States that reflect a nation-wide “racial shift” – expanding the impact of immigrant residential preferences beyond traditional gateway cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, or Los Angeles.

Distribution of Racial and Ethnic Groups in the Atlanta Metro Region. Source: ARC Snapshot of the Region (March 2013).

How do cities that have not been traditional immigrant destinations adjust and adapt to new immigrants, new cultures, and new languages? Welcoming America, a national initiative helping cities develop policies and programs for welcoming new immigrants to their new homes, explains how to “Build a Nation of Neighbors” by incorporating diverse peoples in a variety of ways. Welcoming America helps cities make the most of their diversity and create a sense of belonging.

“It’s about the seed and the soil. If you are a new person coming into a community, a lot of the attention has been paid on the newcomer, watering the seed, helping the newcomer adapt, but we should also pay attention to the soil. Our goal is to create a broader community that is fertile ground for the new person to be successful. So we help communities answer questions about improving the soil, making the community stronger. Fertile soil makes communities more successful for everyone – not just newcomers” –- Rachel Peric, Deputy Director, Welcoming America

Georgia is at a national nexus of new immigration (Hernandez-Leon & Zuniga, 2002), and Atlanta has emerged as one of the few cities in the South seeking to welcome immigrants and embrace this demographic change (Welcoming America Immigrant Integration Initiative, 2013).

“We are trying to build this movement in the South, and lead this movement in the South, and make it natural and “doable.” In 2014 Mayor Reed commissioned a group of stakeholders, a body of people of diverse backgrounds, diverse ethnicities – to answer the question: What would make Atlanta a more welcoming city: what can we do at a policy level, at the community level, on a social level, that would make Atlanta a more welcoming city for immigrants? — Maria Azuri, Director of Programs, Welcoming Atlanta and Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs

But where Georgia has added over 50,000 immigrants in recent years (2010-2014), the foreign-born population of the City of Atlanta itself increased only by about 1000 persons. The vast majority of immigrant groups (across origins: European, Latin American, Asian, and African) are immigrating directly to the suburbs and fringes (older, inner ring suburbs) of the Atlanta MSA, with greatest growth occurring in Gwinnett County, parts of North DeKalb County, and a rapidly growing immigrant concentration to Clayton County (particularly the Forrest Park area).

It is suburban places that experience the most immigrant-driven growth and population change (Brookings, 2014), and reflect the ongoing national preference for suburban areas in general. Singer’s work at the Brookings Institute (2015) has revealed the Atlanta MSA’s national relative classification as a “major-emerging” immigrant gateway. The fastest contemporary growth rates belong to the major-emerging gateways (Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Phoenix); together they comprise 8 percent of the total foreign-born population in 2014. But Atlanta’s immigrant communities are still markedly more oriented to the urban/urbanizing metropolitan statistical area compared to state residents overall; where the Atlanta MSA composes about half of Georgia’s total population, more than 75% of the state’s total foreign born population are drawn to suburbs within the MSA (which housed 689,361 of the 909,002 foreign-born persons within Georgia in 2010).

With the context of recent, rapid, and diverse immigrant population growth in the Atlanta region, a group of researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University, and Kennesaw State University have launched a collaborative research network across the three universities. This group will study this new population and economic growth and the impact of immigration to Georgia and other emergent immigrant destinations. Dr. Cathy Yang Liu (Georgia State University) recently convened the first meeting of the three universities in the public forum “Welcoming Cities – A Dialogue Between Research & Policy” with presentations by partners Welcoming Atlanta (Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs) and Welcoming America. Topics at this event included the City of Norcross, Georgia’s recent efforts at immigrant inclusion, the recently-performedLatino Community Needs Assessment of Georgia, local-government-level initiatives and migration patterns, and the multiple scales encountered in the immigrant experience. For more on the scholarship presented at this event or the Georgia Immigration Research Network (GIRN)’s other recent activities, see, or contact the author at

Ivan Allen Jr. and the Roots of Modern Atlanta

By Todd M. Michney

Ivan Allen mayoral office
Mayor Ivan Allen shortly after taking office in 1961. Image courtesy of the Ivan Allen Jr. Digital Collection, Georgia Institute of Technology

As mayor of Atlanta from 1962 to 1970, Ivan Allen Jr.’s legacy looms large.  Long before Allen, of course, local business and political leaders engaged in boosterism and pushed economic development, carefully managing the city’s image amid sometimes tense race relations.  From the choice of a phoenix and “Resurgens” (Latin for “Rising Again”) as the symbol and slogan of rebuilding in the immediate post-Civil War period; to eager promotion of the New South paradigm as a way toward racial “peace,” best symbolized by the 1895 Cotton States Exposition (with Booker T. Washington seeming to agree); to worries about negative publicity as a result of international reporting on the horrific 1906 race riot; to the launch of “Forward Atlanta,” a 1925 advertising campaign that persuaded numerous companies to establish their headquarters in the city, Atlanta has long been about self-promotion.  While certainly a political innovator, Allen’s basic approach was to continue along the path laid out by his predecessor William B. Hartsfield – which as explained by historian Kevin Kruse, was to enlist middle-class whites in a coalition with African Americans to support gradual civil rights reforms as evidence of progress, moderation, and modernity.  After all, it was Hartsfield who in 1958 had coined the phrase of Atlanta as a “City Too Busy to Hate” amid a climate of rising tension that culminated in the bombing of a Reform Jewish Temple that same year.

Ivan Allen 1963 cartoon
1963 editorial cartoon by Charles Bardowski showing Allen as a cautious architect of Atlanta’s rising civil rights edifice, with African Americans in a supportive but clearly subordinate role. Image courtesy of the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia

Ivan Allen, who passed in 2003, garnered much acclaim over the years for his comparative racial liberalism in an era fraught with growing controversies over the South’s and the country’s legacy of white supremacy and racial inequality.  Considering the intransigence of most white Southern politicians in the face of a growing civil rights movement, many of Allen’s actions were commendable.  Despite having previously voiced segregationist sentiments in a 1957 gubernatorial campaign, he actively courted African American support in 1961 to defeat the blatantly racist Lester Maddox, and carried through on his campaign promises to hire Atlanta’s first black firemen and desegregate the city’s parks and pools; strikingly, he ordered the removal of race-specific signage from city offices on his first day as mayor.  Allen sponsored meetings at City Hall with the Atlanta Summit Leadership Conference, a coalition of local civil rights groups, soon after its formation in 1963, and managed to organize an interracial celebratory banquet after native son Martin Luther King, Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, over the skepticism of many prominent whites.

Ivan Allen Summerhill 1966
Mayor Allen at the scene of rioting in Atlanta’s Summerhill neighborhood in September 1966, waiting his turn to address the crowd after student activist Joseph Means. Image courtesy of the Ivan Allen Jr. Digital Collection, Georgia Institute of Technology

But some black Atlantans were already impatient with the slow pace of change by the time that Allen took office.  African American students had launched a widespread sit-in movement to desegregate establishments serving the public in 1960; in fact, as a result of this activism, Allen as head of the Chamber of Commerce had negotiated an agreement to initiate the desegregation of downtown businesses in tandem with the city’s public schools.  In 1962, Allen accommodated the wishes of white residents in southwest Atlanta by building a barricade across Peyton Road, which they hoped would slow the pace of African American home purchases in the area; ordered removed by court order, he later regretted the resulting damage done to Atlanta’s reputation.  In 1963, at President John F. Kennedy’s urging, Allen became the only mayor of a major Southern city to testify in favor of a federal law guaranteeing equal access to public accommodations like restaurants and hotels –- although it should be recalled that he favored allowing individual municipalities to voluntarily desegregate, even while admitting that progress in Atlanta had been slow, and recognizing that local businesses would have little incentive to integrate without any legal requirement.

But it is perhaps Allen’s economic development priorities that had the greatest lasting impact, with the trajectory he charted stretching even into our present.  With his roots in the business community, Allen envisioned the transformation of Atlanta from a regional commercial hub to national and even international prominence.  Like Hartsfield before him, he utilized new federal programs like urban renewal to build highways and civic facilities intended to shore up downtown property values and boost tourism.  Projects like a new stadium that successfully attracted Atlanta’s first professional baseball team, along with a combined civic center and auditorium, represented the city’s new modern face; however, these projects specifically targeted for demolition older, higher-density neighborhoods that were disproportionately African American, thereby exacerbating a scarcity of affordable housing and an already tense racial climate.  In the summer of 1966, Mayor Allen had to personally plead for calm when rioting broke out in the Summerhill neighborhood, which was suffering on numerous counts in the wake of the new Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium’s construction.  Rather than admit the collateral effect of the city’s recent redevelopment projects, Allen blamed the disorder on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) which was actively organizing residents in the area, although he subsequently shifted emphasis toward building public housing estates to rehouse residents displaced by urban renewal [1].

The economic development strategies set in motion under Ivan Allen’s administration were continued into the subsequent decades, notably in the building of the World Congress Center, Georgia Dome, and the numerous projects associated with the 1996 Olympic Games.  Despite heavy promotion by city officials and the local business leaders, all have provoked controversies due to their disastrous effects on nearby low-income, historically African American communities.  Concerns brewing around current projects include the new Falcons Stadium and whether livability can be restored in the neighborhoods just south of downtown following the Atlanta Braves’ upcoming decampment to Cobb County.  Even the BeltLine, a former railway corridor revamped as a bike- and pedestrian-friendly trail frequently promoted as a green fix to the city’s transportation woes, is widely expected to exacerbate Atlanta’s accelerating gentrification.

Historical interest in Allen is on the rise.  A documentary on Allen premiered in 2015, joining two other films in the works on his successors, notably Atlanta’s first African American mayor Maynard Jackson (who died within a week of Allen, coincidentally).  The Georgia Institute of Technology named its Ivan Allen Jr. College of Liberal Arts in his honor in 1990, as a way of appreciating his leadership and complex legacy during a turbulent era.  In 2013, the College debuted an Ivan Allen Jr. Digital Collection containing photographs, editorial cartoons, film clips, select memorabilia, and interviews collected by Professor Ronald Bayor with individuals who worked alongside Mayor Allen.  The Atlanta History Center (AHC) recently made available to researchers the records of Allen’s mayoral administration; Professor Bayor along with Visiting Assistant Professor Todd Michney, also in the School of History and Sociology, recently won grant funding through the Digital Integrative Liberal Arts Center (DILAC), established with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to collaborate with AHC in digitizing some of these records to make them more accessible.  It is our sincere hope that by revisiting the legacy of Ivan Allen Jr., that we may gain deeper insights into Atlanta’s recent past and in the process, empower more engaged civic participation on issues impacting the city’s most economically vulnerable residents.
[1] For an extended analysis, see Irene V. Holliman, “From Crackertown to Model City?  Urban Renewal and Community Building in Atlanta, 1963-1966,” Journal of Urban History 35, no. 3 (March 2009): 369-386.

Cities and Regions: Managing Growth and Change — Regional Studies Association North America Conference, Atlanta, USA


By Jennifer Clark


At Georgia Tech’s Center for Urban Innovation, we are thrilled to host the Regional Studies Association’s North American conference on June 15-17, 2016 on the theme Cities and Regions:  Managing Growth and Change.  The deadline for submitting abstracts to the conference is April 21, 2016. Click here to submit an abstract and register. Click here for additional information.

This conference is a great opportunity to bring together the international membership of the Regional Studies Association in the City of Atlanta at the Georgia Institute of Technology to discuss how, in the wake of the global financial crisis, cities all over the world are searching for new policies and practices capable of addressing major shifts in socio-economic relations at the urban and regional scale.  

Regional policies, particularly in the North American context, have responded to economic challenges by adopting new technologies and new institutional and organizational forms to manage growth and change at the city scale.  The result is a complex and uneven landscape of public and private actors delivering financial services, scaling-up supply chains, coordinating firm networks, diffusing process and material innovations, and organizing new forms of civic representation and participation.  

The inter-related processes of industrialization, urbanization, and regional and local development are complex.  These processes pose a major challenge for regional policy, firstly, for our conceptualizations of regional and urban development and, secondly, for specifying appropriate policy fixes to provide the conditions for sustainable, smart, and equitable economic growth.  

This conference provides a platform for researchers to address the effects of these policy, organizational, and institutional innovations and their impact on work, identity, governance, production networks, infrastructure investments, technology diffusion, and ultimately place. The conference will focus on the policy implications of emerging forms of governance and policy delivery relative to uneven development and inequality in a post-crisis era of ongoing market liberalization, financialization, and global competition.

The conference program highlights important leaders in the field of regional studies to discuss sustainability, equity, energy, innovation, manufacturing,







The 2016 RSA North America Conference, in the 51st Year of the Regional Studies Association, is an opportunity to discuss these issues, to chart future research imperatives, and to address concerns and challenges confronting policymakers and practitioners.  The conference organizers are keen to attract papers and sessions addressing a broad research and policy agenda, including contributions from disciplines that offer relevant insights associated with recasting our cities and regions. 

Conference Tracks and Themes:
A. Smart Cities, Smart Regions: connecting and connected regions, intersections of ICT and urban infrastructure, diffusion networks, partnership approaches, internet of things, financing city and regional development

B. Regional Innovation: Theory, Methods, Practice: urban and regional theories, methodology, value change (including big & open data), visualization, spatial economic analysis, metrics

C. Territory, Politics, Governance: metropolitan politics, institutions, regionalism, data-driven governance, policy evaluation, urban policy mobilities, intermediaries

D. Sustainable Cities and Regions: urban and regional sustainability at the city scale, risk, resilience, energy systems and sources, transportation networks

E. Emerging Community, Urban, and Regional Identities: culture, identity, citizenship, lived differences, racial and income inequalities, social capital, aging and succession planning, social entrepreneurship, open government, civic hacking

F. Labor Markets in Cities and Regions: geographies of jobs, changing skills and patterns of work, re-skilling regions and cities, local labor markets, immigration and skill, talent,  contract workers and precarious labor

G: Regional Economies: SMEs, Scale-Up, and the Future of Production Networks: smart specialization, evolutionary economic geography, competitiveness, reshoring and manufacturing, firm networks, sectoral policies and clusters, working regions, financialization and geographies of venture capital and private equity

Abstract Submission Guidance
The following guidelines set out the acceptable format for abstract submission. Please note that the abstract submission closing date — 21st April 2016.

Abstract guidelines:

Up to 400 words in length;
Text only; no diagrams, graphs, pictures, citations or maps
All contributing authors must be named, with their country and institution
Indicate which conference theme the paper is being submitted under

Metropolitan America in a Globalizing Age: Inequalities and Opportunities

By Daniel Amsterdam and Todd Michney


Metropolitan America emerged from the final decades of the twentieth century transformed: embedded in the global economy as never before, sprawling further into the hinterland, populated by immigrants from around the globe, and riddled with often new forms of inequality, including between city and suburb, between suburbs themselves, between different metropolitan areas, and between those who can and cannot access quality jobs, education, health care, transportation, and even water and air.  On April 22, Georgia Tech’s School of History and Sociology (HSOC) will host a one-day symposium that seeks to investigate various dimensions of inequality, metropolitan growth, and the impact of America’s heightened globalization since roughly 1970.  It especially seeks to foster a discussion between sociologists and historians to help forge a path for future inquiry.  From the get-go, sociologists have been on the front lines studying many of the changes that metropolitan America has experienced in recent decades.  But too often they have had to proceed without the insights gained from historians’ close scrutiny of context and change over time.  Indeed, urban and metropolitan historians have only recently begun to examine the post-1970 period in the United States.  Through a series of plenary and smaller sessions featuring preeminent scholars, Metropolitan America in a Globalizing Age aims to move toward a compelling, usable account of metropolitan America’s recent past.[1]

Phoenix sprawl
Phoenix, AZ. Uncredited.

The upcoming symposium will feature four distinguished scholars.  Elizabeth Higginbotham, a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of Delaware, is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Georgia Tech’s School of History and Sociology for this 2015-16 academic year.  She is the co-author of Race and Ethnicity in Society: The Changing Landscape (2012) and author of Too Much to Ask: Black Women in the Era of Integration (2001), among many other books, book chapters, and over thirty articles exploring identity and inequality, and in particular the employment issues facing professional Black women.  Andrew Needham is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at New York University and author of the award-winning Power Lines: Phoenix and the Making of the Modern Southwest (2014).  Needham explores the environmental costs of that metropolis’s explosive growth after World War II, and particularly how the process fostered inequality, including in the Navajo Nation which supplies much of the Southwest’s electrical power.  Becky Nicolaides is a Research Associate at UCLA’s Center for Study of Women, the author of My Blue Heaven: Life and Politics in the Working-Class Suburbs of Los Angeles (2002) and co-editor of The Suburb Reader (2006).  Her work has been among the most influential in broadening our understanding of suburbia’s historical development by focusing attention on factors including class and ethnicity.  Finally, Thomas Shapiro is a Professor of Law and Social Policy at Brandeis University as well as Director of the Institute on Assets and Social Policy there.  His co-written Black Wealth/White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality (1995) became an instant classic by drawing attention to severe race-based discrepancies in asset accumulation, traceable to past policies restricting black access to jobs and housing; more recently, Shapiro continued this line of inquiry in The Hidden Cost of Being African American (2004).

Professors Higginbotham, Needham, Nicolaides, and Shapiro will conduct a Roundtable, followed by Breakout sessions in which each will lead a discussion about a pertinent topic or article-length reading of their choosing.  Interested participants must register for these sessions at by April 1.  A informative session, “The 1996 Atlanta Olympics: Assessing Multiple Legacies,” will precede the Roundtable (details below).  The symposium will conclude with a reception.  The proceedings will take place at Georgia Tech’s Wardlaw Center from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The 1996 Atlanta Olympics: Assessing Multiple Legacies

Moderator: Mary G. McDonald, Georgia Institute of Technology

“The Atlanta Olympics: How the Event Turned Atlanta Around”
– Mike Dobbins, Georgia Institute of Technology
– Leon Eplan, Partner, Urban Mobility Consult, LLC
– Randy Roark, Georgia Institute of Technology

“Lords of the Olympic Rings: Power and Politics as seen through Atlanta’s Centennial Olympics”
– Maurice Hobson, Georgia State University

“Shadow of the Domes: Community Response to the 1992 Georgia Dome and the 2017 Mercedez-Benz Stadium”
– Kate Diedrick, Historic Westside Cultural Arts Council
– Christopher Le Dantec, Georgia Institute of Technology

[1] Historians studying American urban and suburban history have in recent years settled on the descriptor “metropolitan history” as a concept which better encompasses the extensive and fluid connections between cities, suburbs, and in an era of urban sprawl, exurbs.  For some sense of the discussions along these lines, see Matthew D. Lassiter and Christopher Niedt, “Suburban Diversity in Postwar America,” Journal of Urban History 39:1 (January 2013): 3-14.



How Anti-Homeless Agendas are Built into Public Space

By Robert Rosenberger

The problem of homelessness in the United States is quickly growing out of control.  According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual report, more than 560,000 people experience homelessness on a given night, including those in shelters and other programs, and those known to be on the street.  Since last fall, a state of emergency over the issue has been declared in the cities of Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland, as well as the state of Hawaii.   

Cities approach this crisis in a variety of ways, from increasing their efforts at outreach and temporary sheltering, to developing longer-term housing solutions.  But as I and others argue, many cities also take up another strategy entirely: a systematic effort to push the homeless out of public spaces.  Such efforts involve a different conception of the problem itself.  Rather than focus on assisting the less fortunate, the focus is instead placed on policing how public spaces can be used, and on decreasing the visibility of the city’s homelessness problem.  This agenda can include both anti-homeless laws and anti-homeless public-space designs.

There are a variety of laws aimed at the homeless, most targeting normal and necessary aspects of everyday life.  For example, there are “sit/lie” laws that prohibit behaviors such as sleeping in public, sitting and lying down, camping, and loitering.  As the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty reports, cities in the US have seen a spike in the enactment of such laws in the last few years.  Activists have responded with a push for ‘Right to Rest’ legislation that would overturn and prohibit these kinds of ordinances, but these efforts face stiff resistance.  Other laws prohibit everything from pushing shopping carts, to sleeping in cars, to panhandling, to storing personal items in public space.  

Series of ‘No Trespassing’ signs along an i-75 onramp in downtown Atlanta


Taken together, this panoply of regulations is often understood to amount to the criminalization of homelessness itself, offloading the problem to the criminal justice system.  An effect of this effort — and I argue its central goal — is to force the homeless out of public areas and into less visible and less safe parts of the city.

How does design contribute to this agenda?  To answer this question, we must first think about the ways in which the typical objects found in public spaces are somehow open to different coherent designs, and also open to fitting into a variety of different societal purposes.

Let’s start with a simple example: the garbage can.  Garbage cans of course serve a main societal purpose: they offer a place to deposit refuse.  This is the purpose for which garbage cans are designed, manufactured, sold, and installed.  But as a public-space object, they are subject to different interpretations, and they are put to different uses by different people.  For example, garbage cans are one of many surfaces that get tagged with graffiti.  This example is instructive because anti-graffiti campaigns operate not only through policies such as the imposition of fines, but also through strategic re-designs.  Designers develop garbage can surfaces that are not conducive to spray paint tags, markings, and art.  One popular version is metal can casings fit with vertical slats.

Garbage cans fit with vertical metal slat casings, rain hoods, and built-in hasps for padlocks on Georgia Tech’s campus

Corrugated and perforated surfaces can also serve this purpose.  The websites of garbage can manufacturers often market these designs explicitly as anti-graffiti features.  Graffiti-resistant paint and surfaces are also available.  Another very different example is a garbage can’s potential as a place to hide a bomb, as we learn from the ubiquitous “If You See Something, Say Something”-style consciousness-raising campaigns.  In the effort to deter terrorism, garbage can designs may feature casings that allow law enforcement and others to easily look inside to check for suspicious items.  Cans with clear cases and bags, or even simple horizontal rings from which hang a clear trash bag, proliferated across train platforms and other public venues in the US after 9/11.

These same dynamics of garbage can design can be seen in relation to the problem of homelessness.  The homeless will at times search through garbage cans for discarded food and other items, and the homeless will also sometimes collect bottles from recycling bins that can be traded in for small amounts of money.  To discourage this behavior, cans are often fit with a “rain hood,” a feature that in addition to keeping rain water out of the open can also functions to discourage one from reaching down inside.  

Two prevalent forms of recycling can in downtown Denver, both enclosed, and both with locking mechanisms built into the casing

Locking mechanisms are also often built into the casing, or hasps are attached to the casing so that the can may be closed securely with an external padlock.  The combination of an exterior casing, a fixed rain hood, and a locking mechanism makes it almost impossible to easily pick trash or recyclables from such cans.

Another example is benches.  Once more we can spell out the central societal purpose for which benches are made, bought, and installed in public spaces: they afford a place to sit.  They are of course a common feature of public parks, subway platforms, and bus stops.  And we can think of many other purposes to which a bench may be put.  It might be used as a makeshift table.  Joggers might use the bench as a fixture to lean against while stretching.  Cyclists may use a bench as a place to chain up a bike.  

But of course benches play an iconic role in cities with regard to issues of homelessness; they are sometimes used by the homeless as beds.  Again, cities often utilize design options that discourage this behavior.  One popular feature is the addition of armrests.

An anti-sleep bench beside an anti-pick garbage can in New York City


Armrests and other dividers functionally break up the seating surface and discourage the bench’s use as a bed.  These designs are occasionally marketed on manufacturers’ websites as anti-loitering features.  Other designs that perform this anti-sleep function include sloping surfaces and bucket seating.

An individual anti-pick garbage can or anti-sleep bench may discourage a homeless person from spending time in a particular area, say, the area around that particular can or bench.  But the experience of such devices must be taken together with any number of other anti-homeless designs that pervade many downtowns.  Hillsides, greenspaces, and other in-between areas are often fenced off.  Alcoves, alleyways, and sidewalks are sometimes hosed off at night and left drenched.  Ledges are sometimes set with spikes.  In addition, rather than modify particular amenities to prohibit the uses favored by the homeless, sometimes cities will remove those amenities entirely.  Parks may roll on with no benches at all.  Entire districts may be devoid of public restrooms, save perhaps for those available only to paying customers.  Stretches of sidewalks in Southern cities, where it gets blisteringly hot in the summer, may continue along with no sign of shade.  These and any number of other anti-homeless design measures, combined with the array of anti-homeless laws tallied above, can effectively flush the homeless out of shared public spaces, and render the problem of homelessness itself invisible.  In this way, these designs instantiate and enforce a city’s larger anti-homeless agenda.

With the assistance of a seed grant from the Center for Urban Innovation, I am currently working on a polemical pamphlet expanding this line of argumentation.  Tentatively entitled Guilty Technology, this small book searches for novel ways to draw out and criticize this increasingly pervasive anti-homeless agenda built directly into the objects of our city’s shared public spaces.  A central project of this work is to use insights from social theory and the philosophy of technology to formulate a set of concepts and arguments that make it easier to see this trend in policy and design, and make it harder to ignore the unjust and immoral consequences.