Education is the key

Atlanta is not the expansive and sprawling metropolis of New York City or Los Angeles, but the city permeates a strong identity of black culture. Some, like Professor Mary Rolinson of Georgia State’s history department, said Atlanta is a central point for black culture.

“Atlanta University became the most important center for higher education for African Americans in the state of Georgia, if not the southeast,” Robinson said.

Following the Civil War and the abolishment of slavery, institutions like Atlanta University, The Augusta Institute, The Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary and Morris Brown Colored College were formed and set out to educate freed slaves. These historically black colleges are now known as Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Spelman College and Morris Brown College, respectively. 

Education has a direct impact on culture. Rolinson said the development of higher education institutions in Atlanta gave the
city a jump-start in the developing of black culture. 

“Atlanta’s cultural development really was due to the establishment of these higher education facilities,” Rolinson
said. “They provided the basis for an educated African 
American middle class that became the African-American elite in the city of Atlanta at the turn of the [19th] century.”

Due to increasing numbers of educated blacks, a black middle class was formed. A surge of educated black Americans, according to Rolinson, lead to a middle class that “had an appreciation for the arts and also had the leisure time and money to partake in the arts.”

Students agree.

Eli Thomas, a freshman at Georgia State, said that Atlanta has a lot of opportunity for African-American students.

“Because of the […] impact of successful blacks in the marketplace, I would say Atlanta could be a hub for black culture,” Thomas said.

While Thomas doesn’t agree that Atlanta is the only hub for black culture, student Kharee Smith said she thinks African-American opportunity is part of Atlanta’s fabric

“I wouldn’t necessarily say [Atlanta] is a hub, in that Atlanta is only known for it, but I do believe black culture thrives here more than other places.”