Race and the Atlanta Braves from Summerhill to Cobb County

Primary author: Clif Stratton

Primary college/unit: Arts and Sciences
Campus: Pullman


Race and the Atlanta Braves from Summerhill to Cobb County is a historical analysis of the consequences of the arrival and departure of the Braves baseball franchise to (1966) and from (2016) its downtown Atlanta site from the late Civil Rights era to the present. Drawing on multiple archival collections and oral history interviews, I argue in this book-in-progress that the arrival of big-time professional sports in “the city too busy to hate,” as former mayor William B. Hartsfield once dubbed Atlanta, proved far more than a benign entertainment spectacle meant to strengthen community bonds, elevate civic pride, and court business and tourism. The Braves did, or at least had the potential at times, to contribute to the achievement of these noble aims.
But professional baseball’s descent on this New South city also exposed and exacerbated the deep-seated racial, economic, and spatial divisions that defined the city’s history in the second half of the 20th century and continue to do so well into the 21st. Thus, Race and the Atlanta Braves offers a high profile case study in how race and racism transformed the urban South into what historians call the Sunbelt South, the centerpiece of which was and is a corporate-driven, publicly subsidized model of capitalism that has come to dominate urban planning and policy, residential living patterns, and metropolitan social relations. Atlanta was part of a broader national phenomenon pioneered after World War II in cities across the Sunbelt, including San Diego, Phoenix, Austin, and Charlotte.