The City of Atlanta was chartered in 1847 and the presence of successful black-owned businesses can be traced to the turn of the twentieth century. By 1890, the 28,098 blacks residing in the city constituted 43 percent of its population, but a rapid in-migration of whites occurred at the turn of the century. This caused the black population to decrease to 39 percent by 1900, 34 percent by 1910 and 31 percent by 1920. In 1930, the black population increased to 33 percent and remained at that level until I960 when blacks constituted 38 percent of Atlanta s population. During the 1960s, whites moved to the suburbs in such great numbers that by 1970 the city’s population of 495,000 residents was 51 percent black. Suburban movement of whites continued between 1980 and 1990, causing Atlanta’s population to decrease to 394,000 while the metropolitan area gained 725,000 residents during the decade. The loss of white residents to the suburbs boosted the city’s black presence to 67.1 percent of the total population. 1
Even though blacks represented a large percentage of Atlanta’s population and they had operated prosperous business ventures since the beginning of the twentieth century, 126 years passed before the city awarded a procurement contract to a black-owned firm. The award was for $13,000 in 1973.
It is virtually impossible to rationalize this racial exclusion. Not only were there qualified black entrepreneurs in Atlanta, but the historical record indicates that, prior to the passage of laws aimed at driving black contractors out of the local marketplace, blacks were as competitive in some areas as their white counterparts.