60 years of covering Atlanta: The 1970s

Atlanta Magazine January 1970
January 1970: “The City’s Prophecy”—what comes next for the nation’s “City of the ’60s”

For our January 2021 issue, in honor of our 60th anniversary year, we dug through our archives to present a snapshot of the magazine during each of our six decades. We discovered groundbreaking work, inspiring stories, and, yes, some errors in judgement. Here’s what we found:

The ’70s in 8 Quotes

From soccer to women in the workplace, these quotes offer a glimpse into 1970s Atlanta

“The $30 Million Industry Atlanta Wants to Kill”
November 1970

“The kingpins that control the hard drug trade are smart businessmen. They looked at Atlanta’s hippies, who were smoking marijuana and taking LSD, and they saw a big, new potential market of receptive kids. All they had to do was offer them something else for ‘turning on.’” They turned on.  — Fulton County District Attorney Lewis Slaton explains the entry of opiates into “the Strip, Tight Squeeze, the 10th Street hippie area”

“Low-Income Housing: Atlanta’s Hot Potato”
March 1974

“If I were really poor, I’d be frightened at this point. The poor don’t know where to go. They feel they’re being squeezed out of the city. . . . Atlanta is going to have to decide whether it’s going to be a city for the rich only or whether it’s going to take care of all its people.” — Pauline Newman, of the Atlanta Community Relations Commission

November 1970“School Integration: Fight Whom With What?”
April 1970

“Some school districts, which have promised to desegregate by this fall, may not; others may resegregate. The school superintendents are placed in a very vulnerable spot: Segregationists have been saying, ‘If you drag your feet, you won’t have to do it.’ And those who did desegregate may be repudiated politically, for the federal government has abandoned superintendents to local political pressure. . . . Desegregation of students in the Atlanta system is less than the state-wide average in Georgia.” — Paul Rilling, regional civil rights director for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, on desegregation and his resignation

“Other Things To Do”
March 1977

“One reason I got involved in baseball particularly and now in basketball is that one of our great challenges is to fully integrate our Black brothers into our society. . . .

And I think America cannot survive without us doing it.” — Ted Turner

“Will Success Spoil Stone Mountain?”
April 1970

One Black legislator explained he had no particular objection to the carving or the hoopla being planned for its dedication. “It’s going to bring in lots of tax money,” he winked. “And besides it will always remind the bastards that they lost the war.”

“Soccer, the national sport in more than 120 countries, has begun exploding in Atlanta”
March 1971

“Kids here don’t grow up playing soccer like some do with football, baseball, and basketball. But by the late 1970s, it will be a very major sport in this country.” —Dick Cecil, vice president of the Atlanta Chiefs and a founding father of the professional North American Soccer League

“Wife, Mother, and Company President”
April 1970

“Men can be very condescending at times and listen to you because they think the idea of a female industrial designer is cute and charming without really hearing what you have to say. . . . I found this male attitude somewhat worse in the South when I first came here, probably because working women are not part of the Southern tradition. But in the seven years I’ve been in business in Atlanta, I’ve seen it disappearing awfully fast.” — Betty Smulian

“Unchoking the Chattahoochee”
February 1971

Millions of gallons of raw sewage, industrial sludge, blood and features from butchered chickens, textile dyes, chemicals, garbage, detergents, dead animals, and assorted other filth are dumped in daily by metro Atlanta’s 1.4 million residents. . . . [But] after five years of foot-dragging, of lame excuses, and allocating money it “didn’t have” to other projects, Atlanta is finally unchoking the Chattahoochee.

Behind the scenes

Three stories provided an especially intimate look at the lives of Georgians who faced the era’s big issues. Here are excerpts from each.

Anne Rivers Siddons Maid in Atlanta 1971 Atlanta MagazineMaid in Atlanta
November 1971

Late spring. Long shadows on a vast velvet lawn. White columns shimmering deep in a twilight cave of sweet new green. Banjo music, soft and aching, from somewhere behind the big house. A warm fog of fragrance from the kitchen, from the Cape Jasmine bushes, from the magnolias, incandescent in the sea-green, underwater dusk. A heavy, middle-aged Black woman in starched white trundles ponderously after a streaking, sleep-querulous small blond boy, capering across the lawn. She scoops him up, scolds him softly as she bears him, wriggling, back to the house. . . . She kisses him. Pauses to listen to the sounds of adult laughter on the lanterned veranda. To watch the ridiculous jeweled peacocks fanning on the grass. To think about the narrow white bed in the small, neat house behind the big one. Gone with the Wind? Song of the South? No. Habersham Road, Atlanta, 1971.

. . . The maid of the South, the patient, loving Black woman who literally raised so many of us, who worked for our mothers in somnolent small towns and sheltered suburbs was real—her body, her hands, her toil, her ties to us and ours. But it was romantic fiction, largely—fiction and economic necessity—that supplied the relationship with its idyllic contentment and gaiety and simple, sunny charm.

That book is closing. Another is opening. Excerpt from the new book: In Washington, D.C., an angry Black woman tells a meeting of the National Committee on Household Employment that of the nation’s 1.7 million domestic workers, two-thirds are Black, 98 percent are women, and median income is about $1,800 a year—$600 lower than President Nixon’s proposed minimum for the unemployed. The woman knows: She is a maid. . . . In the South, which employs 54 percent of the nation’s domestic workers; where, in many states, prevailing wages are as low as 50 cents an hour, more chapters in the new book are being drafted.

—Anne Rivers Siddons tells the story of underpaid and overburdened domestic workers and their effort to unionize. Read the full article

March 1979“A Very Private Torment”
March 1979

“We have to protect our children. From society. Society doesn’t like gays, male or female. If it got out that I was gay, it would cost me my job—and for God’s sake, it might cost me my child. The courts aren’t very liberal here. . . . It wouldn’t bother me if my son became gay,” she says. “But I will admit it, it’s 10 times easier to be straight. I had to get myself married two times to try and convince myself I was straight. It didn’t work.”

Does she have any special problems with her toddler? Is it hard to be a lesbian mother? There is a short gasp on the other end of the line. When the woman answers, her voice is much louder.

“No, I’m not a lesbian mother,” she says tartly. “Just a mother! I pay the nursery bills, and I take the baby to the doctor, and he’s had the chicken pox, and he’s been in the hospital. And when it all happens, you don’t hold him in your arms and think, ‘I’m a lesbian mother.’ You think, ‘That’s my child, and I love him.’ Everything else falls away.”

Atlanta magazine lost a quarter of its advertising in the wake of publishing this cover story about LGBTQ parents.

“Why Not The Best?”
September 1971

“My most vivid memory of my boyhood life is a long, hard day’s work in the sun, in the fields. In a way, there was an intense satisfaction at the end of the day, when we came back to the house on a wagon and turned the mules out of the lot, that I had done all I could do as a human being that day. But the biggest thrill of my childhood was the day they turned the electricity on on the farm, when Roosevelt was president. . . . I was a real country boy. We lived two-and-a-half-miles out of Plains in Archery, Georgia. There was quite a class distinction in school between a guy who lived in the country and one who lived in Plains. And I was a little guy. Daddy always told me to do the best I could and not let anyone push me around. I had a lot of fights.”

— Over the course of about three months, then Governor Jimmy Carter wrote (“in longhand, in a plane or in the back seat of a car”) about some of the experiences that shaped his life and ambitions. He would announce his candidacy for president three years later.

Atlanta 2000

Atlanta 1970s 2000 predictionsOriginally published in August 1973

Nearly five decades ago, Atlanta devoted an entire issue to predicting what life would be like in the year 2000. These were some of our most accurate—and most absurd—guesses. Keep reading

Good Talk Is the Mainstay at Manuel’s

Manuel's September 1979

Floyd Jillson/Atlanta History Center

By Nick Taylor | September 1979

When this ode to Manuel’s was published 42 years ago, the stalwart bar already was in its third decade. Read the story

Struggle of the ERA

By Robert Coram | April 1973

This sometimes off-base article details the legislature’s run-in with the infamous Phyllis Schlafly and the fight to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in Georgia, something the state (and country) has yet to do. After this article published, four magazine staffers, including Coram, filed sex discrimination suits against the magazine’s owner (the Chamber of Commerce) on the grounds that women doing the same jobs didn’t have comparable salaries. The suit was settled out of court, and the chamber standardized its pay scale and urged its members to do the same. Read the story

Explore more decades

This article appears in our January 2021 issue.