Black Migration to Atlanta: Metropolitan Spatial Patterns and Popular Representation, 1990-2012 Público

Abbott, Frances Reyburn (2010)

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How does recent black migration impact Atlanta's geographies of black life? Since 1990,
the Atlanta metropolitan region has become a major destination for three groups of black
migrants from disparate origins: native-born "return south" blacks from other U.S.
regions, Afro-Caribbean immigrants, and sub-Saharan African immigrants. These
migrants' ethnic diversity dismantles existing notions of "black" culture, politics, and
place. Black Migration to Atlanta revises scholarship by demonstrating that we cannot
understand the complexity of black lives in Atlanta without investigating the complex
relationship between space, migration, and popular culture. Atlanta emerges not just as
an urban core, but as a region-a multiplicity of metropolitan sites-imagined and
contested through residential patterns, commercial geographies, and popular culture's
attempts to accommodate cultural and geographic shifts brought by recent black

In my first chapter, I provide a brief history of Atlanta's racialized geography as a
framework for my research. Then, I articulate black migrant residential geographies and
delineate common patterns of suburbanization, exurbanization, and urban depopulation
across groups. I next explore immigrant participation in the production of ethnic and
regional foodways . I argue that such participation illustrates the ways migrants transform
culturally and racially coded spaces through popular presentations of black ethnic
diversity and make intraracial contact. Finally, I examine narrative modes of imagining
migration to Atlanta. Popular culture texts contain "migrant imaginaries"-narrative
constructions that advance specific relationships between migrants and imagined
metropolitan places. These multiple, conflicting imaginaries are central to understanding
how popular culture presents and informs migration.

Black Migration to Atlanta relies on mapping, historical scholarship, census data,
interviews with migrants, observational fieldwork, and close readings of popular culture.
It draws attention to three migrants groups who thus far have garnered little academic or
popular recognition because they do not fit easily into prevailing academic ideas about
black urbanism, particularly in southern U.S. cities. Located within regional, national,
and global networks of cultural production, these migrants broaden notions of ethnic and
class diversity across a region long configured in terms of racial/spatial binary.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Introduction and a Brief History of Atlanta's Black Geography 1

Chapter Two
Mapping Atlanta's Metropolitan Black Populations, 1990-2010 18

Chapter Three
Black Ethnic Foodscapes and Geographies of Intraracial Contact 89

Chapter Four
"Welcome to Atlanta": Popular Narratives and Migrant Imaginaries 129

Bibliography 175

Non-Printed Sources 179

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