Atlanta becomes mecca for black middle class in America
EVERY day Owen Montague gets a short stack of messages from California, Florida, and Ohio from black professionals who want to move to Atlanta and are looking for job contacts. The pull of Atlanta as a ``black mecca'' is growing steadily stronger in the business world, says Mr. Montague, who runs Atlanta Exchange, a networking organization for local black business and professional groups.Skip to next paragraph
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The capital of the South - old and new - has been the seat of black achievement in the United States for decades, from the post-Civil War elite black colleges, to the civil rights leadership of the 1960s, to Mayor Maynard Jackson's milestone successes in the 1970s at converting black political strength into economic advancement for black businesses.
Atlanta's image as the mecca of black America has added some sting to recent investigations and news leaks about alleged drug use and alleged cover-ups by nationally prominent black politicians.
The allegations have largely faded as the estranged wife of state Sen. Julian Bond recanted her angry assertions that her husband and others, including Mayor Andrew Young, used cocaine.
But a cloud has remained. A grand jury is probing a call Mayor Young made to Mrs. Bond the day after she walked into police headquarters with her sensational allegations. Was the mayor, a close friend of the Bonds and a minister by vocation, counseling a troubled friend or intimidating a witness? Why were two officers who took Mrs. Bond's report soon transferred to another division?
On the other hand, details of Mrs. Bond's report leaked to the press before a police internal memorandum was even sent. Many here suspect an attempt to embarrass the city's black political leadership in the police department's leak and in the grand jury inquiry that reportedly concerns Young.
To some supporters of Atlanta's black leaders, the scandal shows that white resistance to black political strength remains. Some note that leaders who are black automatically become symbolic leaders of the whole black community. So the scandal taints blacks in general, however slightly, in the minds of nonblacks who know little of black life.
``Some of us get up early in the morning to read the paper so we know what we're going to have to explain to our co-workers,'' says Charles Johnson, a black lawyer in a predominantly white downtown law firm.
``You are talking about individuals whose lives are so intertwined with so much that is precious and valuable in the black community,'' says Molefi Assante, a leading Afro-Americanist at Temple University. ``It would be a real shame if any of the charges turned out to be true.''
The roots of Atlanta's preeminence are in the elite black colleges, especially Morehouse for men and Spelman for women, which have produced generations of the best and brightest, from Martin Luther King Jr. to four out of five black members of the local Fulton County Commission.
From the orbit of the colleges, Atlanta developed an elite, a wealthy and educated black aristocracy, unmatched in any other American city. Atlanta now sees a growing black business and professional class. Black Enterprise magazine's May issue dubbed Atlanta, among the five best US cities for blacks in business, ``the city of the next generation.''