History of Atlanta combines text and images

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

Rebecca Burns uses photographs and archival information to tell the history of Atlanta in her 2010 book Atlanta: Yesterday & Today. The former Atlanta magazine editor-in-chief says her volume:

is a tribute to one of America’s most energetic and progressive cities. The book celebrates the character, moxie, and extraordinary history that combined to earn Atlanta its status as the capital of the New South.

Ms. Burns’s lively writing complements the historical and modern pictures that provide visual illumination of Atlanta’s story.

The chapters are not divided by time, but by space, and discuss the city’s older neighborhoods in turn: downtown, Sweet Auburn, Midtown, Buckhead, and so on. In each chapter, topics are thematic. This atypical organization is appealing and insightful.

The text is very readable, and conveys considerable detail and factual information without being difficult to read. The modern and historical photographs she includes are a joy to examine. Burns goes beyond the usual selection of visual materials to include pamphlets and posters along with landscapes, people, and photographs and drawings of buildings.

Overall, Burns’s thematic presentation, neighborhood by neighborhood, delivers a nuanced history of Atlanta to her readers. If you were compiling a history of a city like Atlanta, would you tend to compose it chronologically, as most histories are presented, or would you make a spatial-thematic presentation, as Burns has in Atlanta: Yesterday & Today? How does this choice alter the readers’ experience?

Yes, Rebecca is a family member, and, yes, this 192-page volume is well worth tracking down.