The Theodore Roosevelt Association will hold its annual meeting in Atlanta this year, and Wilhelm and I plan to be there. Knowing the history of a city makes a visit more interesting. When the meeting was in Albany, we read William Kennedy’s wonderful O ALBANY! Improbable City of Political Wizards, Fearless Ethnics, Spectacular Aristocrats, Splendid Nobodies, and Underrated Scoundrels (1983.)
I’ve found a promising history of Atlanta. WHERE PEACHTREE MEETS SWEET AUBURN: A Saga of Race and Family (1996) is by Gary M Pomerantz. The book tells the story of the city by following the fortunes of two families: the Dobbses, descendants of freed slaves, and the Allens, descendants of slave owners. Maynard Jackson, the first black mayor of a major American city, is a Dobbs on his mother’s side.
From the book: “In the spring of 1856, a free person of color named Mary Combs paid $250 for a tract of land that today is marked precisely where Peachtree meets Sweet Auburn. She sold it six years later for $500 and used the money to emancipate her enslaved husband.
“An Atlanta pioneer, Mary Combs knew how to make a profit. She also knew about freedom.”
Sandy delivered the book along with the bills and catalogs today and as soon as it warms up enough so that it doesn’t hurt to hold it I’m going to start reading. (It was 17 degrees out there when the mail got here.)