Birmingham, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia


Urban Cowboy and Mural

Last week I traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to co-present a paper at an academic conference and spend a little time exploring in the region. I only had parts of three days away from the conference, but thanks to some planning, I was able to accomplish more than I anticipated. The following photographs are some of my favorites, although you can see others on flickr; clicking on any of the below photographs will also take you to flickr for larger versions of the images.

As usual, most of the highlights involved interactions with people doing what they love. The above photograph is of an urban cowboy named Brannu who runs an equestrian organization and is planning on offering horseback riding lessons in the pictured lot. I spent a little time walking around with him while he visited restaurants and barbershops in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood — until he headed in for lunch at a restaurant with Chicago connections. The mural behind him is by Mexican street artist Neuzz, who made the piece for last year’s Living Walls conference.


Talking to Brannu Urban Cowboy

I had similar experiences in the Vine City neighborhood, which is in the shadow of the (now likely doomed) Georgia Dome. I’ll share the interactions later, but visiting in November was quite a change from the kudzu-covered August: the receding foliage provided clearer views of the neighborhood’s context.

Toward the Georgia Dome

The last time I was in Atlanta, I headed east to visit Sparta, Georgia, so this time I decided I to head west to Birmingham, Alabama. Other than being curious about the city, I was particularly interested in visiting important sites of the civil rights movement and Dawoud Bey‘s Birmingham Project exhibition at the Birmingham Museum of Art.

Among historic locations, I visited several churches, including the 16th Street Baptist Church, below. They are among the many thriving places in the city, but I was struck by the hardships still endured by residents of the historic neighborhoods that were so important to the birth of the civil rights movement. The two photographs below that of the church are representative of many of the older, unoccupied homes located in Collegeville, the home neighborhood for Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth‘s Bethel Baptist Church.


16th Street Baptist Church
Residential Building Residential Building Residential Building

A standout from Birmingham was talking with Ennis Bragg, the owner of the North Side Bragg’s Cleaners and Record Shop. He started the business thirty years ago and has been experimenting with a variety of services and products ever since. The records may be gone, but he still sells everything from CD of his gospel group, The Golden Hummingbirds, to groceries and laundry services. If you’d like you listen to a song from his group, launch the WFMU pop-up player for this episode and slide the bar to 49:24. The song is “He’s Listening” from 1964.


Bragg Cleaners & Record Shop
Ennis Bragg in His Shop

Visit my Alabama and Atlanta and Sparta, Georgia flickr sets for additional photographs and notes from my visit.

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