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Keeping Atlanta Too Busy to Hate, 1975

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This 1975 Time magazine article reports on Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson's performance in office, and discusses the delicate balance of race relations in the city.


When Maynard Jackson took office as mayor of Atlanta last year, it was familiarly known as "the city too busy to hate."

That is still largely true, but blacks and whites are not getting along as well as they used to, and Jackson, the first black mayor ever elected in the city, is being blamed.

A jovial 300-pounder with a gift for the grandiloquent phrase so esteemed in the South, Jackson, 37, appeared to have the qualities to keep Atlanta growing and prospering in harmony.

But he has had a falling out with some portions of the Atlanta establishment -- a group of civic-minded businessmen whose power has waned over recent years. The Atlanta Constitution, long known for its moderate liberalism on race, recently ran a seven-part all-out attack on the mayor. And some whites feel that he has now firmly tilted toward the city's black constituency. "In the white community, they think he is a black mayor for the black community," says Architect-Developer John Portman, a Jackson supporter. "He's perceived as taking every issue and turning it into a race issue. His biggest problem right now is raising white confidence. He has absolutely none."

Jackson's troubles are not all of his own making. The urban crisis has finally overtaken Atlanta. Poor blacks and whites have streamed in from the countryside, and more affluent whites have fled to the suburbs. Schools are deteriorating and crime is increasing. With blacks now making up 55% of the population, Jackson has understandably shifted some power in their direction. He has brought community groups into bargaining sessions and increased city purchases from black businesses...

Jackson's manner sometimes troubles blacks as well as whites. Says City Councilman James Bond, brother of State Senator Julian Bond: "It's not that he's made bad decisions; it's just that he's made them without consulting anybody." Many of Jackson's setbacks can be attributed to inexperience, and there are signs that he is learning on the job. He mediated adroitly between blacks and whites to win acceptance of an integrated housing project near downtown Atlanta. "He knew how to make himself a scapegoat for everybody," says Carl Basnett, an attorney who participated in the negotiations...

...Jackson has also reacted diplomatically to what promises to be the most explosive issue in the near future: whether to incorporate adjacent communities into the city of Atlanta. Such a move would increase the city's tax base, but it would also dilute black voting strength since the new areas would be mainly white. Jackson has indicated that he would support consolidation on "terms that I can sell to the black community" -- meaning not reducing the black vote to less than 45%. For all his missteps so far, the mayor remains determined to keep Atlanta too busy to hate.

Source: "A Mayor Learning On the Job." Time, Apr. 21, 1975.

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