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.

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 26: the mall edition

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.


Jackson’s Metrocenter Mall opens, 1978

Birmingham’s Riverchase Galleria opens, 1986

Underground Atlanta reopens, 1989

excerpt: “The original Underground Atlanta opened in the city’s viaducts in 1969 but closed in 1982 because of the perception that it was riddled with crime. The new version, resulting from a three-year overhaul by the Rouse Company, is at the original site but is three times larger. It offers 22 restaurants and clubs and nearly 100 retailers.”

The documentary Jasper Mall, 2020

The now-abandoned Montgomery Mall, 2021

Montgomery Mall opened in 1970 and was a thriving shopping center until the late 1990s. The mall closed in the 2000s, and parts of it were bought up by the City and the local school system. This video shows its center, the parts that weren’t bought up, in 2021.


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.

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 16

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.


Jim Clyburn elected president of South Carolina’s Young Democrats, 1972

Though Clyburn is not a GenXer, his election in this case shows a marked difference between the Southern politics that the Boomers were familiar with – in South Carolina, that meant Strom Thurmond – and the politics that Generation X became familiar with. For older Southerners, the Democrats were the party of segregation, but it had become the party of Civil Rights by the 1970s. Clyburn rose through the ranks of the party, and as a congressman has been credited with garnering many Southern black votes for Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election.

Mississippi University for Women in the 1970s and ’80s

Showing perhaps some degree of change in Deep Southern culture, Mississippi State College for Women was renamed Mississippi University for Women in 1974. Then, MUW began admitting male students in 1982, and in 1989, the school got its first female president, Clyda Rent. Since its founding in 1884, there had been three female interim presidents who served brief terms before her. Since 1989, only one of the six presidents has been male.

The Todd Road Incident and Leadership Montgomery, 1983

Montgomery, Alabama is well-known as the site of Rosa Parks 1955 arrest and as the destination for the 1965 voting-rights marchers, but fewer people know about the city’s ongoing racial divisions, which continued. The Todd Road Incident involved the shooting of a black teenager by police officers who did not identify themselves as such. In the wake of the controversy, the organization Leadership Montgomery was formed, in hopes of addressing the issues that led to these situations.

“Flashback photos: 30 years ago, 1990 in Georgia” from ajc.com


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.