Praise to Atlanta magazine for its "Forgotten Atlanta" special in the February issue.
With imaginative graphics, historic photos and vivid writing, the venerable city mag looks at Atlanta's history, much of it erased in the city's drive for whatever it's been driving for all these years.
While the city has long touted its racial harmony and progressive business attitudes, the issue probes racial conflict and the pervasive provincialism that stands out even in the South. The magazine also lovingly recalls artistic and cultural events that gave the city its special personality.
Development along segregated racial lines and civic backwardness highlight Rebecca Burns' well-reported article on the devastating fire of 1917, an excerpt from a new book by the former Atlanta magazine chief. Burns's earlier book on the Atlanta race riots in the early 19th century is essential in understanding Atlanta's history.
While Burns shows that the fire was substantial, she doesn't quite make the case that it transformed the city. Most of the damage was apparently confined to the Old Fourth Ward, with major businesses in the Peachtree business district unharmed.
She does show that the fire at last brought Atlanta into the modern era of firefighting equipment and building practices. Unlike most other cities of the time, she reports, Atlanta still had many horse-drawn firetrucks, and much of its gear was obsolete, such as as hydrants that couldn't accommodate modern fire hoses.
Another revelation is how the rebuilding after the fire allowed white power brokers to mandate segregated development patterns.
Former AJC Managing Editor Hank Klibanoff, now an Emory University writing professor, discusses Emory's recent acquisition of the papers of former Atlanta Constitution Managing Editor James Patterson. Like the Constitution's Ralph McGill, Patterson won a Pulitzer Prize for his daily columns in The Constitution during the Civil Rights era.
Reprinted with Klibanoff's Atlanta magazine article is Patterson's classic column following the killing of four young black girls in the Birmingham church bombing. Patterson's voice has lost none of its power or relevance.
While Emory's possession of Patterson's papers is fine - Klibanoff boasts of how many Atlanta journalists are represented there - I wondered why the University of Georgia and its excellent Henry Grady School of Journalism didn't receive the Patterson bequest.
Patterson is a UGA alum, and Klibanoff reprints a Patterson memo regarding the battle over the integration of the school. That was a major event in the history of the university and state, and UGA should be the repository of papers from a man who played an influential role in that drama along with other key civil rights events that allowed Atlanta to mostly escape the turmoil that crippled Birmingham and other Southern cities.
Klibanoff makes an off-hand remark about how his buddy, the Poynter Insitute's writing guru Roy Peter Clark, asked him if Emory would be interested in Patterson's documents. Patterson finished his career as publisher of the St. Pete Times and director of the Poynter, run by the same family that owns the Times.
Klibanoff doesn't mention how much the Poynter, or Patterson's estate, received financially or whether UGA had any chance to land Patterson's papers, or any of the others at Emory. It's a shame that UGA journalism students won't have easy access to documents regarding the integration of UGA and issues such as Patterson leaving the Constitution over his unhappiness with the newspaper's tightwad executive Jack Tarver, notorious for refusing to allow McGill and Patterson to cover the ground-changing Selma march.
Strange that Emory has so much of Atlanta's journalistic history; it shuttered its journalism department, which Klibanoff headed before landing in his "creative writing and professor of practice" gig. Guess Emory is more interested in dead journalists than in future ones.