Legend of the Black Mecca by Maurice Hobson

Black Mecca

Legend of the Black Mecca by Maurice Hobson is a book that explores the history of Atlanta and its association with black achievement in education, business, politics, media, and music.

The book argues that Atlanta’s political leadership has consistently mishandled the black poor, despite the city’s long tradition of black education that dates back to Reconstruction.

The author draws from vivid primary sources and unnerving oral histories of working-class city-dwellers and hip-hop artists from Atlanta’s underbelly to portray a striking schism between the black political elite and poor city-dwellers.

The book tells the story of Atlanta’s rise to leadership during the civil rights movement and how it took power in the 1970s by building a coalition between white progressives, business interests, and black Atlantans.

However, the book argues that Atlanta’s political leadership has governed by bargaining with white business interests to the detriment of ordinary black Atlantans.

The book provides a much more nuanced and interesting narrative of Atlanta’s history than the ones we are so accustomed to hearing.

What I Liked

I am a resident and voter in the City of Atlanta. I moved here in 2013. Even though I was very familiar with the political dynamics of Georgia state politics, I really did not understand the dynamics of Atlanta. This book is a must-read for any City of Atlanta resident to understand why things are the way they are…and to interpret how the City has historically worked, as far back as Mayor Hartsfield in the 1930s.

I appreciated how well-documented the book is and I liked how he mixed in lots of anecdotes and stories to make the abstract discussions about political coalitions more tangible.

What I Did Not Like

The book should be read in conversation with other books about Atlanta. The book firmly addresses only one side of a multi-sided, often confusing, political situation in a City that’s also very much a product of being in the Deep South…in a country that is also not a huge fan of cities anyway.

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