MARTA and the making of suburban conservatism
Hatfield, Edward A.
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This thesis examines the debate surrounding the creation of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rail Transit Authority (MARTA) between 1960 and 1972. When it appeared on area ballots in November of 1968, MARTA was to be the crowning achievement of a decade long push for growth development. However, the measure failed, largely as a result of opposition from the city’s black voters. Over the course of the next three years, the city’s black leadership and white business community renegotiated their relationship and reinvented the system as a genuine public service. However, when it appeared on area ballots a second time, in 1971, suburban voters erected a populist defense of local autonomy and defeated the system by a four to one margin. Using a combination of newspaper accounts, archival sources, and oral interviews, I argue that the system’s suburban critics created a suburban identity that fused racial anxieties, fierce individualism, and hostility to the federal government. In mounting their opposition, Atlanta’s suburban conservatives experimented with themes that have continued to resonate in American politics and foreshadowed the coming dominance of the Republican Party in the formerly Solid South.