Atlanta has been referred to as a black mecca since the 1970s, while New York City's Harlem was referred to as a black mecca during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and still is today.
In 1971, Ebony magazine called Atlanta the "black mecca of the South", because "black folks have more, live better, accomplish more and deal with whites more effectively than they do anywhere else in the South--or North".Ebony illustrated as evidence of "mecca" status Atlanta's high black home ownership, the Atlanta University Center (the nation's largest consortium of historically black colleges (HBCUs)), Atlanta's civil rights heritage, black business ownership, black-owned restaurants, the civic leadership of the black clergy, black fraternal organizations, and black political power in City Hall, while it also acknowledged the poverty which a large percentage of Atlanta's black population endured.
In 1983, Atlanta magazine said that Atlanta's reputation as a black mecca was "deserved because it is true" because "the metro area now has the highest proportion of middle-income African-Americans of any city in the country". A 1997 Ebony magazine article illustrated Atlanta's status as "the new mecca" (and the "land of milk and honey" for blacks) because a poll of the magazine's 100 most influential African Americans voted Atlanta overall the best city for blacks, possessed the most employment opportunities for blacks, it was American's "most diverse city", and was the city with the best schools and most affordable housing for blacks. A 2002 article in the same magazine reconfirmed Atlanta as "the new black mecca" and "the go-to city for blacks."
In 2009, the Associated Press characterized Atlanta's status as a black mecca by black political power in its City Hall.
A 2015 report showed that Greater Atlanta had the greatest numerical gain in new black residents than any metropolitan area in the U.S., with more than 198,031 black residents moving there, according to an analysis of census data.
Atlanta is the home of the largest consortium of historically black institutions in the nation. The Atlanta University Center consists of Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, Morehouse College and the Morehouse School of Medicine. The consortium structure allows for students to cross-register at the other institutions in order to attain a broader collegiate experience.
In 2011 in a New York Times article with the short title "Atlanta Emerges as a Black Entertainment Mecca", comedian Cedric the Entertainer, who hosted that year's Soul Train Music Awards, said Atlanta had always been a black mecca and continues to be one, with respect to the black musical talent in the city.
In 2005 the New York Times reported that Atlanta had become a mecca for gay blacks, noting that within the African-American community in the U.S., in which being gay was less accepted than in society as a whole, Atlanta formed a refuge of tolerance. It also noted Atlanta's annual Atlanta Black Pride festival. An earlier 2004 article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution also documented Atlanta as a "hub" or "mecca" for black gays.
Atlanta's status as a "mecca" for blacks is sometimes questioned, or the concept of a "mecca" refuted altogether, due to the endemic high levels of black poverty that exist alongside black success. In 1997 the Chicago Tribune published an article titled "Atlanta's image as a black mecca losing luster". The loss in "luster" was because of a reality that too many blacks weren't coming close to financial success, but rather "caught up in a vicious cycle of poverty, crime and homelessness". The city had among the highest crime rates in the nation, many inner-city blacks were unable to travel to jobs in the suburbs, and despite 20 years of black city leadership, the reality was that city officials were unable to solve these problems.
Harlem in New York City was referred to as a black mecca during the 1920s and 1930s. In March 1925 the leading magazine Survey Graphic produced an issue entitled "Harlem: Mecca of the New Negro" that was devoted to the African-American literary and artistic movement now known as the "Harlem Renaissance". Alain Locke guest-edited this issue. Much of the material appears in his 1925 anthology "The New Negro." In 1965, author Seth Scheiner published the book Negro Mecca; A History of the Negro in New York City, 1865-1920.
The 2001 book Harlemworld documented that the concept of Harlem as a black mecca at that time (i.e. seven decades after the Harlem Renaissance) was still present among many residents - a concept that was "history-laden" or even quasi-mythical.
Black Mecca: The African Muslims of Harlem was also the title of a 2010 book by Temple University professor Zain Abdullah about Muslim West African immigrants in New York City, using "Mecca" not only in the generic sense of "a place that people are drawn to" but also playing on the original meaning of Mecca as the Muslim holy city.
Rarely are places other than Atlanta and Harlem mentioned as black meccas, though in questioning the status of Atlanta as a black mecca, comparisons are often made to other cities with large black populations with cities over 200,000 people, such as Birmingham, Detroit, St. Louis, Memphis, Durham, Philadelphia, Houston and New Orleans, as well as New York (as a whole, i.e. not just Harlem), Baltimore, Chicago, and Joliet.