Marvin Olasky

Bob Lupton, a veteran, usually successful Christian anti-poverty leader who lives in Atlanta, rues what happened: “Summerhill is my best example of community development gone wrong.?…?Very savvy, respected business leaders checking their business sense at the door in the name of servanthood to the community. Handshake loans, multimillion-dollar real estate decisions with no collateral or even organizational structure to back them up.?…?Within a month a vision that had taken five years to grow was dead in the water. It set race relations back a decade or more. No one has wanted to touch Summerhill since.?…?The Summerhill well has been poisoned.”

The only bit of good news (and it’s mixed) is what’s happened north of Georgia Avenue, the area of Summerhill closer to downtown: Gentrification, with new and refurbished houses selling in the 200s. As more private money comes to Summerhill, a neighborhood now without supermarkets, pharmacies, and banks will gain them. That doesn’t help long-term residents priced out of their neighborhood, for market forces can be brutal: As Wilhelm Ropke wrote in A Humane Economy, capitalism works best only with a Christian sensibility. But overall, the Summerhill lesson is that entrepreneurs are public servants much more often than politicians who play with the money of others.

Atlanta politicians now are repeating the mistakes of the past by clamping down on hard-working, self-employed street vendors who for years have set up kiosks on street corners near Atlanta ballparks. (Former heavyweight boxing champ Evander Holyfield was a Summerhill resident who earned money that way.) City officials, though, signed a deal with one big company that gave it a monopoly over all street vending: The city would get some money and the kiosks would have a uniform look. Larry Miller, a vendor for 20-plus years, has organized the Atlanta Vendors Association and is fighting City Hall with the help of the Institute for Justice: “All we want to do is work and feed our families.”

By the way, the souvenirs from Leo Frank’s lynching sold so fast that police said sellers needed a city license. Two new organizations emerged in the lynching’s aftermath: the 20th century Ku Klux Klan and the (Jewish) Anti-Defamation League. In 1986 the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles granted Leo Frank a posthumous pardon.

Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky is editor-in-chief of the national news magazine World. For additional commentary by Marvin Olasky, visit
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