two years of “level:deepsouth— for Generation X”

It was two years ago this week that level:deepsouth went online. I had had the idea for a while before that, since there was no publication, no project, no website – not that I could find – devoted solely to Generation X in the Deep South. I had pondered first whether such a project could be a newspaper or magazine, whether it should be a book, then I gave in to the reality that, even though we were raised on print, this is now an internet world. And while I am an editor, this subject is larger than a single print anthology or similar work.

Generation X Deep SouthThe project is devoted to collecting, archiving, and sharing stories, images, videos, texts, and links that speak to what it was like growing up in the Deep South in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. You can read my editor’s introduction “Definitions, Numbers, An Exodus, and the Stories” for a better idea on what that means more specifically, but I’ll add this. In the 2000s, I worked on quite a few projects that collected the stories and images from the Civil Rights movement. By that time, most movement veterans were elderly or close to it – having been born in the 1940s or earlier – and there were obvious challenges associated with talking with them at that late date: foggy memories, re-interpretations over time, forgotten names, lost photographs. Often, in response to a question, we would hear, “You know, that was a long time ago . . .” which was then followed by a shaky recollection. Those experiences lead me to devise the idea for level:deepsouth. In the 2010s, GenXers were in our 30s and 40s, a prime age range for remembering and retelling stories from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Perhaps, I waited too long to begin, but let’s be honest: we’re not exactly “old” . . . yet.

Probably the most important thing to include here is that level:deepsouth remains open for submissions. The project has published some stories from Generation X, but there are a lot more out there. I have continued to track down sources for “the lists” and to write up scattered information for “tidbits, fragments, and ephemera,” but what will bring this project to life are the stories. To truly represent our generation in this place at that time will require more firsthand recollections. For those who aren’t confident in their writing ability, I am offering my editorial help. Finally, I’m aware that the lack of an author payment leads some writers to decline the opportunity, but as long as I’m funding the project with my own money, they’ll just have to miss out. (If anyone is confused by the lack of payment, please read this.)

We’ll see what the next year holds. No matter— if you grew up in Generation X in the Deep South, consider adding your voice to this fledgling cacophony. I’ll be here for a while longer to impose some order on that chaos. 

Generation X Deep South

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 29

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera is a usually weekly but not always, sometimes substantial but not making any promises glimpse at some information and news related to Generation X in the Deep South.


What would you like to see included in “tidbits, fragments, and ephemera”? Use the form below to write to the editor and make a suggestion.


level:deepsouth is an online anthology about growing up Generation X in the Deep South during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. The anthology is open to submissions of creative nonfiction (essays, memoirs, and reviews) and images (photos and flyers), as well as to contributions for the lists.

Georgia, ca. 1980

In 1980, during the time that Generation X was growing up, Georgia had 5.46 million people living there, just over 1.33 million of them under age 15. This Georgia of Generation X’s youth was generally not-diverse, but relative to other Deep Southern states, the immigrant population was larger. In the state, 3.95 million people (72%) were white, 1.46 million (27%) were black, and 61,000 (1%) were Hispanic. (Asians / Pacific Islanders did not show up as group on this census.) 91,000 people in Georgia were “foreign born,” compared to 33,000 in neighboring Alabama. (Put in context, Georgia’s had 40% more people than Alabama, but its immigrant population was almost triple Alabama’s.) About one-third of Georgia’s immigrants were Europeans, almost a quarter had moved from Asia, more than 18,000 came from Central or South America, and nearly 2,800 from Africa. And a broader array of languages were spoken: about 400,000 people in Georgia spoke a language other than English at home. 

This was a period of heavy in-migration for Georgia. From 1970 to 1980, the overall population grew from 4.59 million to 5.46 million. Table 195 in that 1980 census shows that Georgia averaged 12,000 – 15,000 immigrants every five years from 1950 to 1974, then that rate doubled between 1975 and 1980. Also in 1980, where about half of Georgians (2.65 million) lived in the same house they had in 1975, about ten percent (581,000) had moved to Georgia from another state since 1975. But it’s worth nothing that 339,000 of those 581,000 moved from other parts of the South. (You can read more about Latino immigration specifically on the New Georgia Encyclopedia website.)

And then there’s Atlanta. According to Wikipedia:

Atlanta’s population grew steadily during the first 100 years of the city’s existence, and peaked in 1970 at around 496,000. However, from 1970 to 2000, the city lost over 100,000 residents, a decrease of around 16 percent. During the same time, the metro area gained over three million people, cutting the city’s share of the metro population in half, from over 25 percent in 1970 to around 12 percent in 2000. However, the city’s population bottomed out in 1990 at around 394,000, and it has been increasing every year since then, reaching 420,003 residents in 2010.

In the chart below that passage, which cites the 1990 Census as its source, we see a chart about racial dynamics there. In 1940, Atlanta was two-thirds white and one-third black. By 1970, it was roughly half-and-half. By 1990, the city was two-thirds black and one-third white. So, as Georgia’s Generation X grew up, the city center shrunk but the outer-ring suburbs grew exponentially.  

Of course, lots of things were changing about Georgia, including state leadership. From 1967 until 1971, the axehandle-wielding segregationist Lester Maddox was governor, then he was replaced by moderate Democrat Jimmy Carter, who would then be elected president in 1976. When the ’80s began, the job was held by George Busbee, who the New Georgia Encyclopedia described like this: “He gave the state eight years of effective, low-key leadership and ranks among the most popular and least controversial of modern Georgia governors.” 

However, all controversy was not gone from Georgia. Larry Flynt, the publisher of the porn mag Hustler, was shot in Lawrenceville in 1978 by the same white supremacist who shot Vernon Jordan. There were also continued Civil Rights protests, in the small town of Wrightsville in 1980 and Forsyth County in 1987. 

On the brighter side, a new music scene was developing. Widespread Panic played their first shows in 1982 in Athens. REM, The B-52s, and The Side Effects were all playing early gigs at that time, too. There was also Augusta native Amy Grant, whose first album came out in 1979. Through the ’80s, she became popular among the Christian rock crowd and had some pop hits as well.

In the early 1980s, the state also experienced the great heights in college football. The Bulldogs went undefeated and won a national championship in 1980, with freshman Herschel Walker in the back field. In 1982, Walker would win the Heisman Trophy. This was the era of Vince Dooley, who coached UGA from 1964 until 1988. The Bulldogs were ranked in the top five every year from 1980 through ’83.

In 2020, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution offered “Flashback photos: 40 years ago, Atlanta and Georgia in 1980.”


You can also read “ca. 1980” posts on Alabama and Mississippi.