The Culture of Property
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The Culture of Property

Race, Class, and Housing Landscapes in Atlanta, 1880-1950

Title Details

Pages: 280

Illustrations: 12 b&w photos and 1 figure

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 11/01/2009

ISBN: 9-780-8203-3392-2

List Price: $34.95


Pub Date: 11/01/2009

ISBN: 9-780-8203-2979-6

List Price: $120.95

The Culture of Property

Race, Class, and Housing Landscapes in Atlanta, 1880-1950

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This history of the idea of “neighborhood” in a major American city examines the transition of Atlanta, Georgia, from a place little concerned with residential segregation, tasteful surroundings, and property control to one marked by extreme concentrations of poverty and racial and class exclusion. Using Atlanta as a lens to view the wider nation, LeeAnn Lands shows how assumptions about race and class have coalesced with attitudes toward residential landscape aesthetics and home ownership to shape public policies that promote and protect white privilege.

Lands studies the diffusion of property ideologies on two separate but related levels: within academic, professional, and bureaucratic circles and within circles comprising civic elites and rank-and-file residents. By the 1920s, following the establishment of park neighborhoods such as Druid Hills and Ansley Park, white home owners approached housing and neighborhoods with a particular collection of desires and sensibilities: architectural and landscape continuity, a narrow range of housing values, orderliness, and separation from undesirable land uses—and undesirable people.

By the 1950s, these desires and sensibilities had been codified in federal, state, and local standards, practices, and laws. Today, Lands argues, far more is at stake than issues of access to particular neighborhoods, because housing location is tied to the allocation of a broad range of resources, including school funding, infrastructure, and law enforcement. Long after racial segregation has been outlawed, white privilege remains embedded in our culture of home ownership.

A rich and nuanced treatment. . . . Lands's dynamic scholarship presents both her academic peers and lay readers with a useful tool should they decide to heed her clarion call to teach American history in a more challenging fashion.

—Journal of American History

The Culture of Property prompts us to consider the social actors, groups, and interests that drove the re-engineering of Atlanta's landscape at the turn of the twentieth century, from a city where washerwomen lived near their employers to a city that sought to move an entire black university for the sake of ensuring white control of space. The author brings the discussion to a critical edge by relating the events of the early twentieth century to the current housing crisis in Atlanta and the insensitivity of contemporary white elites to issues of social justice. The book will cut across and contribute to a variety of disciplines and readerships. The great strength of the work comes from its explicit analysis of geography and landscape, demonstrating that the history of Atlanta (or any other city) must be re-told and analyzed in the context of the spaces and places that people inhabited, constructed, and struggled over.

—Derek H. Alderman, coauthor of Civil Rights Memorials and the Geography of Memory

An important contribution to the literatures of urban and suburban history. Lands investigates the transformation of neighborhoods and property markets in Atlanta to explain the making of a new cultural and political infrastructure for segregation, an infrastructure that continues to shape the United States today. Illuminating the many links between local and nationwide trends, she makes a persuasive case for Atlanta’s role as a national exemplar as well as a city with its own local and regional peculiarities.

—Andrew Wiese, author of Places of Their Own: African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth Century

The Culture of Property is a must read for those who are looking for the historical causes of metropolitan Atlanta’s geographical segregation. Lands demonstrates that early twentieth-century suburbs like Druid Hills and Ansley Park, planned and landscaped intown neighborhoods for the city’s white elite, became the models for homogenous subdivisions in an expanding city, enabled by residential racial zoning and racially restrictive covenants and by home-loan financing provided by banks and supported by federal housing and lending policies.

—Timothy J. Crimmins, Director of the Center for Neighborhood and Metropolitan Studies

Leaving no archival stone unturned, Lands utilizes a vast array of official records and newspaper articles, as well as city directories, Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, and manuscript census data. The author weaves these sources together to craft a richly detailed tapestry that brings to life the city's evolving urban landscape and the people that inhabited and reshaped it.

Social and Cultural Geography

About the Author/Editor

LEEANN B. LANDS is a professor of history at Kennesaw State University. She is the author of The Culture of Property: Race, Class, and Housing Landscapes in Atlanta, 1880–1950 (Georgia).