Ghosts of Atlanta
Cultural Gentrification of the Black Mecca
An interrogation exposing the endangered identity of Black America’s capital city
Once heralded as the “Black Mecca of the South,” Atlanta’s Black community is currently under threat of dislocation by cultural gentrification. Amid the city’s urban renaissance, residents face rising property values, taxes, and rents, as well as the more insidious loss of a collective identity and belonging. In Ghosts of Atlanta: Cultural Gentrification of the Black Mecca, author Rhana Gittens Wheeler examines the fading echoes of African American memory and historical narratives in Atlanta.
As encroaching investors and business owners enter historically Black areas, many have sought to rebrand entire neighborhoods, making those spaces more palatable to would-be gentrifiers and less recognizable to former residents. Exploring material sites of meaning, including monuments, museums, art exhibitions, and more, Gittens Wheeler unearths tensions between the city’s proud legacy as a hub of political and economic equality for Black Americans and the unsettling reality of cultural displacement. Gittens Wheeler interrogates and critiques recent developments in the city, including the Atlanta BeltLine, craft breweries, and attractions that romanticize the civil rights movement.
Drawing inspiration from literary giants like Ralph Ellison and Toni Morrison, as well as contemporary voices like 2 Chainz and T.I., Gittens Wheeler weaves together elements of rhetorical criticism, archival studies, and interviews to confront pressing questions. What happens when symbols of cultural memory and identity are uprooted? How do residents grapple with the erasure of their narratives, forced to feel unwelcome in their own neighborhoods? In addressing these questions, Gittens Wheeler uncovers the complex dynamics of shared spaces, exposing both the pain of displacement and the possibility of redemption.
A reverberating call to action, Ghosts of Atlanta: Cultural Gentrification of the Black Mecca demonstrates that Black stories, inscribed in space, are necessary for bringing a moral reckoning to the heart of America’s national identity.