By John Krige, Georgia Tech
Most people who travel regularly tell me that they have been to Atlanta—meaning of course to the airport, ranked the world’s busiest by passenger traffic for the past several years. This rather limited impression of the city can only be further degraded if you arrive at rush hour and drive through the downtown area: the two freeways that carve right through the heart of Atlanta are overwhelmed by commuters in the Greater Atlanta area that now numbers over 6 million people.
That being said this is a city on the move, noteworthy for its vibrant music scene, its African American business community, and significant Cambodian, Ethiopian, Korean and Mexican communities catered to by several huge “farmer’s markets” that have a dazzling display of fresh and packaged produce from all over the world.
Atlanta is also noteworthy for having a large LGBT community that is particularly present in Midtown, the cultural hub of Atlanta adjacent to Piedmont Park and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, and home to the High Museum of Art, the Woodruff Arts Center and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
Atlanta is also the heart of higher education in the South. Three major HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) have their campuses here: Clark Atlanta, Morehouse and Spelman. Emory University (ranked 20th nationally) and the Georgia Institute of Technology (ranked 34th) are only a short distance from the conference location, which actually embraces downtown Georgia State University, the largest university in Georgia. I know this is degenerating into a list but let’s not forget the significance of Atlanta in recent civil rights history, as exemplified in the Martin Luther King Memorial Center. The Jimmy Carter Museum and Presidential Library is only a mile or two away from your hotel. The Southeastern Branch of NARA (the National Archives and Records Administration) is a 45-minute drive south in Morrow, Georgia for those who want to slip away from the conference and do some quiet research. Need I also mention that Coca-Cola has its headquarters and a fascinating museum here, that CNN is based in Atlanta, and that you can visit the Margaret Mitchell House about a mile down Peachtree Street from the Westin, stopping by the iconic Georgian Terrace Hotel that hosted the premiere gala of “Gone with the Wind.”
Atlanta has much to offer, particularly if one can escape the downtown area if only briefly to jog in Piedmont Park, to walk the “beltline” that has a point of entry adjacent to the Park, to dine in Midtown, or to relax on the magnificent piazza of the High Museum designed by Renzo Piano. Welcome to Atlanta: may you leave with happy memories of another wonderful HSS Conference and with new insights into the richness of this major southern city.