I don’t know if the term “Cosmic Southerner” is something I came up with or if I read it somewhere or heard someone say it, but it’s an idea I’ve carried with me for a long time. Pharoah Sanders, André 3000, and Benjamin from the band Smoke are true Cosmic Southerners. Atlanta’s Col. Bruce Hampton is another.
In 1913, the murder of Little Mary Phagan rocked the people of Atlanta, Georgia, setting in motion a series of events that involved a botched and terribly obfuscated trial; a tinder box of xenophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, and “white rights”; and another murder. “Fiddlin’ John” Carson set it all to music.
Grandmama’s stank was root and residue of black Southern poverty, and devalued black Southern labor, black Southern excellence, black Southern imagination, and black Southern woman magic. This was the stank from whence black Southern life, love, and labor came. I didn’t fully understand or feel inspired by Grandmama’s stank or freshness until I heard the albums ATLiens and Aquemini from those Georgia-based artists called OutKast.
These photographs by Rusty Miller, taken in the 1960s and ’70s, feature Atlanta’s Summerhill, Old Fourth Ward, and Vine City neighborhoods as well as the MARTA bus line. A careful and intense observer, Miller is known for his often candid and striking images of his subjects.