The Legend of the Black Mecca

Politics and Class in the Making of Modern Atlanta

By Maurice J. Hobson

336 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 12 halftones, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5475-1
    Published: August 2019
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-3536-1
    Published: October 2017
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4878-9
    Published: October 2017

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Awards & distinctions

2018 GHRAC Award for Excellence, Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council

For more than a century, the city of Atlanta has been associated with black achievement in education, business, politics, media, and music, earning it the nickname "the black Mecca." Atlanta's long tradition of black education dates back to Reconstruction, and produced an elite that flourished in spite of Jim Crow, rose to leadership during the civil rights movement, and then took power in the 1970s by building a coalition between white progressives, business interests, and black Atlantans. But as Maurice J. Hobson demonstrates, Atlanta's political leadership--from the election of Maynard Jackson, Atlanta's first black mayor, through the city's hosting of the 1996 Olympic Games--has consistently mishandled the black poor. Drawn from vivid primary sources and unnerving oral histories of working-class city-dwellers and hip-hop artists from Atlanta's underbelly, Hobson argues that Atlanta's political leadership has governed by bargaining with white business interests to the detriment of ordinary black Atlantans.

In telling this history through the prism of the black New South and Atlanta politics, policy, and pop culture, Hobson portrays a striking schism between the black political elite and poor city-dwellers, complicating the long-held view of Atlanta as a mecca for black people.

About the Author

Maurice J. Hobson is associate professor of African American studies at Georgia State University.
For more information about Maurice J. Hobson, visit the Author Page.


“The singular focus on poor and working-class black Atlantans makes this book an especially important contribution to a wider and more complete picture of the totality of Atlanta and its black citizens, including the most vulnerable.”—Journal of Southern History

“Provides an intriguing look at a group of people who are typically left out of conversations about Atlanta’s past and progress.”—ArtsATL

“Provides a necessary counter to the standard narrative of modern Atlanta.”—Choice

“Hobson does his best work articulating the nuances of how Atlanta became such an unequal city, lionized in civil rights history for being “too busy to hate” and glorified in the present as one of several Black Meccas in the United States. His narratives are rich and compelling, and the data presents an accurate representation of the wealth of archives across the city’s many historical, cultural and educational institutions.”—Journal of Urban Affairs

“Maurice Hobson keeps it real in this post–civil rights history of black Atlanta. He excavates the political contradictions in the city’s politics by revealing what Atlanta’s hip hop community dubbed the Dirty South. Here’s a history where Outkast and Goodie Mob meet Atlanta’s black mayors. The ironies are deliciously delectable and debatable. Hobson’s history of Atlanta is not simply regional; it is a national story of neoliberal politics at the expense of the poor." —Randal Maurice Jelks, author of Benjamin Elijah Mays, Schoolmaster of the Movement

“In this extensive study of the evolution of black Atlanta, Hobson uncovers and closely examines the black Mecca trope and offers a much more nuanced and interesting narrative of Atlanta’s history than the ones we are so accustomed to hearing.”—Derrick P. Alridge, University of Virginia

Multimedia & Links

Watch: Hobson's talk at the Atlanta History Center, recorded by C-SPAN. (2/21/2018, running time 1:24:27)