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

By Leeann Lands | Go to book overview

APPENDIX

Discerning Atlanta’s residential class and racial geography with an eye to street-level organization was the first task in this project. A variety of methods have been used by scholars to assess how groups segregate themselves or others residentially. The index of dissimilarity, for example, measures the extent to which groups inhabit different areas by assessing the fraction of one group that would have to change areas to achieve a distribution consistent with the population distribution city-or regionwide. Social scientists have developed other models, but the census block or tract usually is the smallest area of analysis.1 But as sociologist Rick Grannis has asserted, community relationships are more often based on street relationships, and racial segregation patterns specifically “reflect an attempt to separate races along the residential street network, not to keep them spatially distant.”2 Olivier Zunz has recognized the importance of neighborhood or block-level organization historically and built his analysis of industrializing Detroit around the street blocks and facing streets that constitute a citizen’s immediate environment. Although certainly more difficult and time consuming than studies that use census blocks and tracts, studies based on block and street-front sampling more effectively reflect residential clustering by race, ethnicity, class, and occupational type. Such detail is integral to establishing and detailing which factors become more or less important in neighborhood formation historically. Using blockfront sampling over time, for example, Zunz found that while Detroit’s neighborhoods initially formed loosely around ethnic identity, large-scale industrialization at the turn of the century made class a more apparent sorting factor after 1900.3 Since the 1980s, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has helped ease the drudgery of such block-level, longitudinal investigations.4 But although GIS helps facilitate data analysis, historians are still often burdened with building databases of historical information or recreating historical maps.

I used a combination of methods to trace Atlanta’s changing human geography over the late 1800s and early 1900s. I used GIS to implement a block-level study of Atlanta from 1891 to 1919. Limitations to the data and changes in the city made any later block sampling too difficult, as I will discuss. Therefore, to discern Atlanta’s human and material geography in the late 1930s, I drew on the Housing: Analytical Maps (which is based on the U.S. Census block statistics) and the HOLC city survey. Finally, I used the National Historical GIS data and shapefiles to map racial patterns for 1950.5 Each tool has its own set of limitations. The GIS study is largely limited to data within the city limits, for example. The HOLC city survey provides information on suburban developments as well as the material environment, but does not contain block-level data. In the end, the combination of resources seemed the best route to unmasking Atlanta’s changing residential landscape in the early twentieth century.

The balance of this appendix will discuss the design and implementation of the block study from 1891 to 1919.

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