As the title suggests, this book presents a narrative of Atlanta’s upward struggle to greatness. The chapter titles outline the city’s quest for greatness; the book begins with “Laying the Foundations,” moves “Through War’s Furnace,” turns “With Faces to the Future,” finds that “Events Move Quickly,” and then settles on “Elements of Greatness” about midway through the text. This represents the “Today” in the title, as Hornady ticks off Atlanta’s achievements in education, spirituality, finance, and industry. Atlanta’s heroic story – that of a Phoenix rising from the destruction of Sherman – is always at the center of Hornady’s tale. In the very first paragraph he wonders that “a city which was fed to the flames in times of internecine conflict, should have become as a shining light, leading an exhausted and impoverished people into peaceful conquests out of which came wealth and happiness undreamed.” Hornady devoted much of the first chapter to the story of a mob of lawless “roughs” who lived in shanties on the outskirts of the city and disrupted the peace in a violent rampage. The author describes the suppression of this mob – and the destruction of many makeshift homes in the unwholesome suburbs – as “the [foundation] of the security that is the heritage of the people of today.” Subsequent chapters reiterate the theme of triumph over adversity in various contexts, such as the story in “Industry at Its Best” of how the native ice business freed Atlantans from dependence on northern ice production and provided ice for rich and poor alike. “Revival of Ancient Order” deals with the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in much the same triumphal manner, portraying the group as defenders of the Constitution and Christianity against implacable hostility. Interestingly, two of the last chapters concern the achievements of female citizens and the “education of the Negro.” The chapter on women commends the community service efforts of women’s clubs, but spends much time on the election of Woodrow Wilson. The chapter on African-American education conspicuously lacks the sense of struggle over great historical odds seen throughout the rest of the book, although Hornady notes progress in the form of “an increasing number of intelligent members” in the African-American community.
John R. Hornady, Atlanta: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, 1922
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