The rise of academic urban geography and sociology during the middle decades of the twentieth century and the professionalization of urban planning agencies promoted the use of thematic mapping both to analyze the complexities of the city and to plan its future. Maps dissecting the city according to race, ethnicity, education, income, economic activity, housing stock, and land use provided planners and other officials, and the larger public they addressed, with a richer sense of the complexity of city life. These maps also had the rhetorical effect of reinforcing the appearance of scientific objectivity in the decisions urban administrators and planners made.
However, the apparent objectivity of the map reflects rather than transcends the social and political context in which it was made. One cannot read this 1963 map of Atlanta showing the distribution of predominantly non-white residential areas within the city and its suburbs of East Point, College Park, and Hapeville without reference to the Civil Rights movement, segregation, and the racialized urban politics of the day. Maps showing the distribution of racial and ethnic groups were hardly unique to Atlanta (or, indeed, to Southern cities), and like racial segregation itself they are no less common today. Even so, the clearly defined pockets of non-white neighborhoods concentrated at the center of the city speak volumes about the intersection of planning, mapping, and racial politics in the 1960s.
Kruse, Kevin Michael. White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005.
Georgia State University Library. “Planning Atlanta - A New City in the Making, 1930s - 1990s”http://digitalcollections.library.gsu.edu/cdm/planningatl
Map of Atlanta (Atlanta: City of Atlanta, 1964). Georgia State University Library, Planning Atlanta: A New City in the Making, 1930s-1990s Collection, G3924 .A28 E2 1963 .A85