‘Year of the Reveal’: Runoffs Follow Pandemic, Protests and a Test of Atlanta’s PromiseHistorians in the News
tags: African American history, Georgia, Atlanta, urban history
Like Atlanta itself, the rapper T.I. has known both defeat and a long twisting road toward redemption and prosperity.
He was a drug dealer from Atlanta’s west side who ascended to international recognition as a musician, producer and entrepreneur, became a federal inmate, and then climbed his way back to become an activist, serve on the mayor’s transition team and help invigorate his old neighborhood as a socially aware real estate investor.
Over the past year, he has watched as Atlanta has been buffeted by months of cascading sorrow, racial strife, economic pain and political drama. And on the cusp of momentous elections on Tuesday that will decide control of the Senate and perhaps the direction of American politics for the next two years, T.I. is not the only one looking for clarity in the conflicting currents that have roiled Atlanta like few places after a tumultuous year.
“This is the year of the reveal,” T.I., whose given name is Clifford Harris, said of the past 12 months. “Everything is coming to light.”
For generations, the prevailing mythology of Atlanta has been that it is an undeniably Southern city that is also unlike the rest of the South, a place where the relentless pursuit of economic and social advancement meant casting aside much of the racial division and bitter history that have long dogged the region.
But lately, that notion has been tested — by the pandemic; by violent encounters between African-Americans and the police; and by the fluctuating divide between metropolitan Atlanta and the much more conservative and traditional state surrounding it.
Atlanta has long been a magnet. The city has drawn African-Americans from across the nation, looking for opportunity and an escape from hostility and discrimination. It has become the same for gay, lesbian, transgender and gender-nonconforming people. It has also drawn a reverse migration of descendants of rural Black Southerners who fled segregation and poverty.
“You’ve decided that you want to return to the American South, but you’re not going to that little town in Mississippi where they actually came from,” said Calinda N. Lee, the head of programs and exhibitions at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. “It’s this fictive homeland in this way that has hugely driven population numbers and hugely influenced sensibilities here.”