When Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

When Atlanta journalist Gary M. Pomerantz decided to write a history of his city, he chose an unusual approach to his subject, and one which proved highly effective. Geography provided him with a useful symbol for his work: the fact that there is a spot where Peachtree, Atlanta’s main thoroughfare, where the established, wealthy, white families built homes and skyscrapers, intersects Auburn Avenue, called “Sweet Auburn” because it was a social, commercial, and religious center for black Atlanta. Throughout most of Atlanta’s history, the black and the white communities were like these two streets, separated, with only a perfunctory contact. Now, however, Peachtree and Sweet Auburn have met. In order to show how this change came about and how it has transformed the lives of whites and blacks alike, Pomerantz interweaves the histories of two families, one black and one white, beginning in the Old South of slaves and slaveowners and ending in New South Atlanta, host to the 1996 Summer Olympics.

In a sense, WHERE PEACHTREE MEETS SWEET AUBURN is a history with a happy ending, for each family provided Atlanta with a mayor who served his city courageously during a difficult period. Ivan Allen, Jr., the descendant of slaveholders, was a champion of civil rights; Maynard H. Jackson, Jr., offspring of the well-known Dobbses, became the first black mayor of any large Southern city. Pomerantz provides all the needs of scholars, family trees, time line, notes, bibliography, and index. However, what makes this book outstanding is its human interest, the recollected history which reveals so brilliantly the life and the heart of a great Southern city.