There is an alarming issue surrounding an area known as The Bluff in Atlanta, Georgia that seems to be vastly overlooked by the upper-middle class white Anglo-Saxon Protestants that live and work within the surrounding area. Mere blocks away from The Georgia Dome and the fabulous World Of Coke there lies an area that the locals call “Hell.” This area encompasses the vicinity around Morehouse College and Vine City, including the corner of Joseph E. Boone Blvd and Joseph E. Lowery Blvd, which is considered by The Atlanta Journal Constitution to be the deadliest corner in the South Eastern United States (Stevens). With giant murals of T.I. on the sides of buildings, the master narrative surrounding this predominately African-American, poor, inner-city area is one of gangs, drugs, and violence. Master narratives of areas like this come from the media, but this specific area has plenty of negative publicity of its own to bring to the table. In 2012 an independent film company (find name to cite) produced the “documentary” Snow on tha Bluff about Vine City. In this documentary, the main character Curtis Snow supposedly stole a video camera from some naïve college students who were cruising the area looking for drugs. The camera then followed him around through scenes of drug deals, drive-by shootings, and a controversial scene where a baby was playing in a pile of cocaine which contained razor blades. The area has also been made notorious by several rappers, including T.I., who drop the name “Simpson Road,” the former name of Joseph E. Boone Blvd, as their former drug dealing grounds.
The ruins of what was obviously once a beautiful area has now been transformed into a scene of decay and desperation. Many notable people once proudly called this area of Atlanta home, including Martin Luther King Jr., Herman Cain (Minor), as well as Gladys Knight and two of The Pips (Perry). Houses in this area that were once homes that people could be proud of are now boarded up and falling down. Despite the massive “block party” that takes place every evening on the corner of Boone and Lowery, the area looks like a ghost town. Nearly half of the homes have been boarded up to prevent vandalism, several entire apartment complexes have been boarded up, and many buildings that have suffered severe fire damage have been left inoperable yet standing.
Many of these vacant buildings have become homes for drug addicts and the homeless. Gang graffiti litters the abandoned apartment complexes. As more seedy characters move in, more homeowners move out. As the homeowners leave, their houses get boarded up, squatters move in, and they are never again to be sold. For Sales signs can be seen on houses that simply say, “Make Offer.” As all of these houses continue to fill up with more junkies, those who do stay realize that there is profit to be made off of those more desperate than themselves.
This series of events has done little more than to reinforce the master narrative of inner-city life. The series of gun shots that ring out in the night make one forget about the beautiful place that this once was. The strong spirit of The Civil Rights Movement and what was fought for here has long been forgotten. Efforts have been underway for years to “clean this area up.” The only thing accomplished thus far is the renaming of the streets. If Joseph E. Boone will ever again be the area that Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. called his home, it is yet to be seen. One can only hope that the master narrative can be reversed and that hope can be restored to a broken city.
Yolande M. Minor, "The Herman Cain of Atlanta's West Side", Cascade Patch, October 19, 2011
Harmon Perry, "Gladys Knight and the Pips: Too hot to stop", Jet magazine, June 20, 1974
Alexis Stevens, "Study: 4 Atlanta neighborhoods among nation's most dangerous", Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 5, 2010