Black Gentrification in Atlanta Neighborhoods

Barbara, Combs. “The Ties That Bind: The Role of Place in Racial Identity Formation, Social Cohesion, Accord, and Discord in Two Historic, Black Gentrifying Atlanta Neighborhoods.” SOCIOLOGY DISSERTATIONS(2010): 1–407. Print.

Map of gentrified neighborhoods in Atlanta. Source: clatl.com

In her dissertation Barbara Combs of Georgia State University, discusses the phenomenon of “black gentrification” in  Atlanta neighborhoods. She proposes that “black gentrification” is similar to mainstream gentrification, in exception that  “black gentrifying neighborhoods both the poor and working class residents who resided in the neighborhood prior to its gentrification and the new residents of greater economic means are black” (2). In this case it distinguishes from mainstream gentrification  because “black gentrifiers in black gentrifying neighborhoods often feel a responsibility or obligation to their lower income black neighbors” (2). Combs argues that “attachment to the neighborhood space …(place affinity ) has the potential to obviate social tensions in gentrifying black communities and bind residents to each other and the social space they all occupy” (3). She explores ways to ” strengthen social and economic cohesion in these gentrifying black communities” (3).

Metro Atlanta neighborhoods faced economic decline due to the U.S. recession. The American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008 made funds available to refurbish homes that were vacated or foreclosed. However,  an “Atlanta Journal Constitution article appearing January 25, 2010, Federal officials say Atlanta is moving too slowly spending $12.3 million it got last March to buy vacant homes in neighborhoods ravaged by foreclosures (Stirgus 2010)” (20). Combs the gentrification taking place in the two Atlanta neighborhoods under study…against the findings of Larry Keating and the Gentrification Task Force Committee on Gentrification.” (23). Although whites are moving into gentrifying communities the racial composition remains predominately black. Combs suggests ” African Americans have played a key role in the development and maintenance of black communities” (25). Post-segregation African Americans were afforded new housing options due to Civil legislation. Many remained in the inner city due to ” rising gasoline prices and commute times, proximity to amenities, quality of life” (25).

Sociologists have begun to research the impact of place. race, and class have on black gentrification. Combs states “overarching goal of this dissertation is to determine the potential for place attachment” (3), meaning what compels lower income residents to stay within black communities that have social tension. This essay addresses how the demographics in Atlanta neighborhoods shapes identity of a space, Patricia Hill Collins describes”everyone has a race/gender/class specific identity,” and everyone is simultaneously “being oppressed and oppressor” (Collins, 1993: 28)” (118). Combs defines spaces as a physical construct that”includes things like buildings, streets, and natural structures as well as aspects of physical proximity or location in relation to other fixed, bounded geographical areas or things” (183). While place is socially constructed  “comprised of the social, historical, cultural, educational, economic, business, religious, and other institutions in the area” (183). She is interested in how these factors foster “place attachment”.

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