Race, Class, and Conspiracy: The Atlanta Child Murders and the “Atlanta Spirit”

“Race, Class, and Conspiracy: The Atlanta Child Murders and the ‘Atlanta Spirit’” is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

The Senior Seminar is a capstone course taken during the last year of undergraduate studies. In it, research skills, writing proficiency, and presentation capabilities gained throughout the course of a student’s academic career are honed and expanded. Along with a paper that is thoroughly researched and a minimum of 20 pages, a 30-minute presentation is given towards the end of the semester to members of the campus community. For this project, I chose to study the Atlanta Child Murders of 1979-1981 as a tool for understanding race and class in the city during its transitional period into a post-racial society.

Over the course of six months, the project was formed and re-adapted continuously to create this final product that I am proud of. Hours of archival research, numerous newspaper analyses and discovers, a great deal of books on urban living and conspiracies, and many political think pieces later— the culmination of my college career— have led to the creation of this work that examines the role of economics, race, and politics during the Atlanta Child Murders. A biracial legislature, the city’s Black mecca status, nor Maynard Jackson could protect Atlanta’s poor Black community from the Boogeyman.

In 1982, Atlanta stood trial against the world and was found not guilty of alleged racially-motivated killings, conspiracy, and official violence surrounding the Atlanta Child Murders. From July 1979 to May 1981, Atlanta found itself in the midst of a murder frenzy. Thirty Black children, teens, and young adults from ages 4 to 28 became victims in a succession of murders. These victims fit the same profile: primarily boys, relatively young, belonging to poor or working-class families, and Black. Fifteen years after the Civil Rights Act, a series of killings in the Atlanta area with victims who looked the same and came from the same areas struck a chord within the Black community; the obvious conclusion was that the killer must be a member of the Ku Klux Klan or another White nationalist organization attempting to undo the steps towards equality that Atlanta’s Black and White citizens had undertaken in the preceding years. The Black mecca had become the most dangerous city for Black children.

Legally, the case ended in 1982 with the trial and conviction of Wayne Williams; socially and culturally, however, the case was never closed. Every few years the case of the Atlanta Child Murders resurfaces and captures media attention: 1985’s The Atlanta Child Murders miniseries and James Baldwin’s book The Evidence of Things Not Seen, 2000’s film Who Killed Atlanta’s Children?, and CNN’s 2010 The Atlanta Child Murders documentary. With every resurgence, however, viewers found themselves no closer to discovering the truth of the Atlanta Child Murders than they had been in the 1980’s. Once again in 2019, the uncertainty of Wayne Williams’s conviction and the Atlanta Child Murders has surfaced, and individuals, media outlets, and local government are re-examining their findings from the case. From Netflix documentaries, to podcasts, to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms reopening the case in early 2019, there is a new organized effort to find who killed Atlanta’s youth.

This research is not about Wayne Williams. Instead, I argue that the murders of 1979 to 1981 act as a vehicle for understanding the social and political state of Atlanta during its tenuous transition into a post-racial, progressive New South. An analysis of the Atlanta Child Murders cannot be conducted without the examination of class, conspiracy, and race, because the primary victims in this case, poor African-Americans, became casualties to both a rampaging serial killer and a local government acting in its own best interest.

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Les Deux Déclarations: Elizabeth Cady Stanton et Olympe de Gouges

This short paper, written in French in my 2018 sophomore year, compares and contrasts two women: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an American known for writing The Declaration of Sentiments, and Olympe de Gouges, the French writer of The Declaration of the Rights of Women and the Female Citizen. Both women produced works that are feminist by definition, written to model famous male literature, and are from two different time periods and regions.

Here is an excerpt of the concluding paragraph:

Les idées de Stanton que les gens qui étaient ‘moins que’ ne devraient pas pouvoir d’obtenir plus de ou le même droit que les femmes [blanches] de Les Etats-Unis. De Gouges ne faisait pas la différence entre elle-même et d’autres démographiques en France. Pour elle, Tout signifié Tout. Dans la défense de Stanton, il n’y avait pas de grande population Noire en France au moment de la Révolution, donc la seule chose que de Gouges ont dû s’inquiéter d’été les droits pour des femmes. De Gouges était contre l’esclavage, mais nous ne savons pas si elle était contre des Noirs en obtenant le droit de voter. Stanton était un activiste anti-esclavagiste, mais son racisme est devenu apparent quand le progrès dans le mouvement pour les droits de la femme est venu à une halte. Ses actions étaient contestables, mais Stanton était la raison directe de suffrage pour les femmes dans Les États-Unis.

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Education 225: Digital Literacies Public Service Announcement Project

Reading Past the Headlines” for Education 225

My Education 225: Digital Literacies course has culminated to this final event: the PSA project. For this project, I created a public service announcement about a topic related to any social issue of my choice, with the only restriction being that the PSA can be no longer than one minute. I decided to go with the idea of ‘reading past the headlines.’ I got this idea from scrolling through Twitter one day and seeing an article about click-bait news articles from the 1800’s. Click-bait is not a new phenomenon; yet, it seems that media outlets (even reputable ones) have more recently begun to lose their credibility in the face of click-bait articles, news over-saturation, reader fatigue, skepticism, and competing news sources.

With quick news, hot topics, and rigid political alignment, keeping up with current events has become a task for many individuals in my generation. We are digital natives, so we are used to getting quick, fragmented information and working with it to create something larger (think: celebrities and millionaires being found on six-second streaming platforms). Netizens, active participants in the online community of the Internet, believe for the most part that the headline’s purpose is to summarize an entire story rather than to capture the reader’s attention, but media sources simply want clicks. According to this study, only 4 in 10 Americans report that they delved deeper into a particular news subject beyond the headlines within the last week. Additionally, it found that those adults with a cell phone that connects to the internet are much more likely than those without one to find news through social media. Social media is an easily accessible tool that we tend to think of as harmless, but doesn’t our ignorance turn it into a malicious tool?

The more complex an issue, the less likely it is to be read thoroughly by the public. The Washington Post cites this as a reason why most news agencies use simple messaging as effective messaging in titling their articles. Memes, retweets, and shares seem innocuous but prove to be detrimental in the long run. Whether we know it or not, our opinions and news cycles are shaped by what we and our friends share, meaning we should be more diligent in how we select what we share and retweet. For example, I chose to include an article, “Marijuana Contains ‘Alien DNA’ From Outside Of Our Solar System, NASA Confirms,” to further demonstrate how misleading headlines can be because the article actually breaks down user statistics and the discrepancies between links that are shared and how often they are actually clicked and read.

Ultimately, I chose to create a reenactment of scrolling through my Twitter feed to combine my ideas of the necessity of reading articles rather than trusting the title along with just how little the information we spread and re-tweet is actually being processed.“Reading Past the Headlines” for Education 225

Throughout this project, I realized my ideas struggled to fit into the parameters of time. The first draft I delivered to the class was terrible; it was missing sound, awkward to sit through, and ran past the time limit. People could not understand the message I was trying to present until the very end, and it was difficult to understand even then. The ‘next-to-final’ draft I submitted was not much better in my opinion; it was perhaps even more awkward because of the texting sounds I added over the silence, which served as a staccato to punctuate the elapsed time rather than bring the viewer into my phone with me. The final draft was better than the rest, but I still have my reservations about it. I overlaid music, amplified the texting, and attempted to add contextualization at the beginning to ground the audience into my work. Overall, I think that maybe I attempted to put too much into a short project. The contextualization was helpful, but if only the audience had enough time to read it. I saw the same text on screen for at least three weeks, so I read it quicker because I already knew what it said. The audience did not have the same advantage.

Lessons for next time would include honing in on an even more specific topic rather than attempting to take on an overarching idea— for example, reading past the headlines in politics or focusing on one particular social issue instead. I was much happier with my results on the other projects assigned in class, but I chose to write my reflection about this project because it reminded me that I am not going to be perfect at everything that I do. This project humbled me. I’m okay with what I did, but I would have preferred if this were my first draft rather than my final. That can’t be changed, but I’m happy that I at least finished.

Plus, I passed!

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Introduction to Art

“Self Portrait: Despair! at the Discotheque” is licensed by Leandra Colley under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

I call this piece Despair! at the Discothèque because of the harmony in the  combination of my expression and the vibrant colors, and I LOVE my results. This was the second-to-last project of the course.

I will begin by detailing my mediums, techniques and small comments,  then I will continue with an overall summary and critique of the piece as a whole. To make the specific explanations more clear and less muddled, I will number the panels of my image from P1 to P12:

“Self Portrait: Despair! at the Discotheque” is licensed by Leandra Colley under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

P1: Crayons This panel was inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s works

P2: Collage. Paper from previous art projects and black acrylic paint. The images that I cut up were what I believed to be my weakest drawings, and I used them as a starting point for what I believe to be one of my strongest pieces.

P3: Water color and acrylic paint.

P4: Mod Podge,  yellow and purple ink wash, acrylic paint. This panel was inspired by Basquiat’s untitled skull painting.

P5: Brown Conte crayon

P6: Brown and black Conte crayon, hot glue, acrylic paint, and glass stones

P7: Acrylic paint. This panel was inspired by Chuck Close’s Emma.

P8: Black (gray) ink wash 

P9: Yellow, green, and black ink wash

P10: Yellow and purple ink wash, acrylic paint, and water colorPablo Picasso’s Girl Before a Mirror was the direct inspiration for this square.

P11: Water color

P12: Chalk pastel 

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Introduction to Programming

‘Real or Fake: Fake Job Posting Description Prediction’ is a data set found using Kaggle; it can be found here. Originally, it was produced by The University of the Aegean| Laboratory of Information & Communication Systems Security.

In this data set, there are 17,880 job posts from 2012 to 2014, and from that, 17, 014 jobs prove to be real and 866 jobs are fraudulent. The University of the Aegen did the tough work of determining the validity of the job posting for us, so all that we have left to do is parse the data and make it make sense.

The idea of what is ‘sensitive’ information is slowly changing day, and fraudulent organizations are taking advantage of our complacency. We know to be wary of scam phone calls telling us we won one million dollars for a contest we never entered, to avoid clicking banners of websites asking us for our email address and phone number in exchange for a prize, and to never give out our passwords for our accounts. Even with all this caution, however, the University has revealed that there is another vastly understudied area where fraudulent companies and individuals are easily finding new victims: online job boards. We unknowingly release our sensitive information in the forms of resumes— phone numbers, emails, addresses, social media, former education, and other potential security question answers. This data set, at its core, is meant to equip job seekers with the understanding that each job listing- real or fake- should be scrutinized before applying. As you will see, it is not a simple task to distinguish between what is fact or fiction.

I will admit that this file looks much more beautiful in its Jupyter Notebook format, but this PDF version is a nice overview of my project.

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