The Culture of Property: Race, Class, and Housing Landscapes in Atlanta, 1880-1950

By Leeann Lands | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
A City Divided, 1910 to 1917

If the home-owning whites who occupied the distinguished homes lining Jackson Hill, just east of Atlanta’s downtown, were uncomfortable with the presence of African Americans in the area, it did not surface publicly until 1910. That year, local whites attempted to remove historically black Morris Brown College to another part of the city. When blacks declined to move, whites drew and announced a boundary line to prevent what they called “Negro encroachment” and “invasion.” When black families continued renting and purchasing homes within Jackson Hill, whites pushed through segregation ordinances in 1913 and 1916.

Jackson Hill whites seemed increasingly disconcerted by the growing city. Homes filled in empty lots in the neighborhood. And African American families drew nearer. Worse, in whites’ view, black success meant that African American families no longer occupied small rows of “Negro tenements” and alley housing but were renting and purchasing bungalows next door. Black presence on street fronts challenged white notions of the proper place of blacks spatially and in social status.

Moreover, Jackson Hill’s whites made their segregation demands as Edwin Ansley, Joel Hurt, and other elite investors established exclusive parkneighborhoods at the city’s northern and eastern edges. Arcadian landscapes, distinguished homes, calming tableaus—and a greater-than-average presence of homeowners—lured many civic elites away from the increasingly crowded city. Indeed, Atlanta’s boosters celebrated the modern city, but its mixture of backyard tenements, businesses, and homes paled in comparison to the era’s acclaimed monumentalism, planned neighborhoods, and civic centers. New neighborhood and city designs—and the promise of white neighbors—likewise attracted Jackson Hill’s whites. But rather than moving to Ansley Park or Druid Hills, white elites attempted to bring park-neighborhood practices and controls into their established neighborhood, and demanded that black families move out—or be moved out.

White elites insisted on whitening Jackson Hill. They attempted to move historically black Morris Brown College out of the neighborhood and to the west side of the city. When that action failed, they declared a fourteen-block section

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