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While Atlanta is very much in the South, it's debatable whether it's really "of" the South. Certainly traditional Southern cultures, white and black, are part of the fabric, but they're very much the background, not the main pattern. With migrants from all over the United States and the rest of the world, Atlanta is now a diverse city with a lot of different ethnic groups. A random Atlantan plucked from the street is as likely to have been born in Indianapolis or Bangalore or Matamoros as Atlanta. Since most Atlantans have come to the city from someplace else, there's less resistance to newcomers than elsewhere in the South.
While not without its own history of racial tensions, Atlanta has typically exhibited a greater degree of cooperation between the races, allowing both black and white residents to focus on what the city does best: business. The mayor, police chief and most of the city council are African-Americans, a reflection of the city's status as the epicenter of black culture in America. . The Atlanta University Center colleges (Spelman, Morehouse, Clark Atlanta, and the Morehouse School of Medicine), the historically strong black business community, and the tradition of tolerance and cooperation fostered by the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. combine to make the city an attractive destination for both visitors and new residents.
The city is also friendly to gay residents and travelers, with the second largest gay pride parade in the United States, and numerous gay-oriented or gay-friendly businesses including bookstores, bars and nightclubs, etc.
In the last two decades, other ethnic and cultural groups have joined the mix in Atlanta, with large Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Hispanic, East Asian, Eastern European, and African communities growing and becoming more prominent. Northeastern Atlanta, the "international village" areas of Doraville and Chamblee, and Gwinnett County in particular are home to large and vibrant immigrant communities.
Atlanta is home to numerous well-known businesses and organizations, some of which are home-grown (Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Turner Broadcasting, Georgia-Pacific, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and others that, like so many residents, have relocated here (UPS, Newell Rubbermaid, the American Cancer Society, CARE). Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport's status as the world's busiest airport is both a result of, and a cause of, the thriving business community.
Whatever their origin, visitors and residents can all agree on one thing at least -- the traffic's terrible. The faster-growing parts of town can be nearly impassable at busy times, and even short excursions can turn into three-hour tours when bad weather or accidents occur. Since the city was basically leveled during the Civil War and rebuilt afterward, and since there are no natural geographic barriers to sprawl, the city has been spreading outward since its earliest days, when the well-to-do followed the trolley line out to the then-suburb of Inman Park. The far-flung nature of the city's suburbs has generated conditions where much of the traffic is suburb-to-suburb, instead of the suburb-to-city-center pattern of many other major cities, making effective public transportation systems difficult to develop. Thus, despite the complaints about the traffic, Atlanta remains very much a car-oriented city.
While the city's arts and cultural entities generally aren't considered world-class, there are numerous interesting and worthwhile museums and galleries, as well as thriving performing arts organizations. The Woodruff Arts Center, including the High Museum of Art, is in the midst of an ambitious effort to raise its profile, having just completed a major expansion designed by Renzo Piano that has drawn rave notices for its architectural merit, and entering into a long-term partnership with the Louvre in Paris to arrange loans and traveling exhibits from the Louvre's collections. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, the Alliance Theatre, and the 14th Street Playhouse are also part of the Woodruff Arts Center. The Alliance Theatre established a national reputation as an important regional theatre, originating productions such as Alice Walker's The Color Purple and Tim Rice's Aida, both of which went on to win Tony Awards for their Broadway productions. The Alliance itself received a Tony Award in 2007 as Outstanding Regional Theatre. The Fox Theatre is an outstanding venue for national touring productions of major Broadway hits and for concerts, but is also a historic architectural gem in its own right. The Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern offers a unique opporunity to see plays by the Bard (and others) performed by professional actors in a tavern setting with live musicians and a full menu of British pub food, beers, ales, etc. From its start in a back room of Manuel's Tavern in 1994, the Shakespeare Tavern has grown and thrived moving into its own building on Peachtree Street in 1999. The Tavern completed a half-million dollar renovation of this building in 2006, adding a Globe-Theatre-inspired facade. Numerous other theatre, dance and performing arts troupes call Atlanta home as well, including the Center for Puppetry Arts, the largest American organization devoted solely to puppet theater. The Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University is home to the largest collection of ancient art in the Southeast, with an outstanding collection of artifacts from Egpyt, Greece and Rome as well as the Near East and the ancient Americas. The Carlos Museum building is also worthy of note, having been extensively redesigned by renowned architect Michael Graves.
Atlanta has long been home to outstanding educational institutions, including Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University, the Atlanta University Center colleges, Agnes Scott College, Oglethorpe University, and Georgia State University. More recently, additional colleges and universities have been founded or expanded in the Atlanta area to serve the growning population, such as Kennesaw State University, Georgia Perimeter College, Southern Polytechnic State University, DeKalb Technical College, the University of Georgia Gwinnett Center and Georgia Gwinnett College.