In 1926 a group of fourteen Atlantans, led by prominent attorney Walter McElreath, formed the Atlanta Historical Society (AHS). The organization’s goal was the “preservation of sources of information concerning the history of the City of Atlanta in the State of Georgia.” Membership benefits included a subscription to a yearly publication called the Atlanta Historical Bulletin, of which McElreath was the first editor.
The first issue of the Atlanta Historical Bulletin was published in September 1927 and contained information on the new society and two essays—”A Short History of the Parish of the Immaculate Conception” and “The Scottish Rite Hospital for Crippled Children.” The AHS published the Bulletin yearly from 1927 to 1936. It contained historical essays on Atlanta and genealogical records like rosters, listings of names from tax digests, marriage records, and county resident lists. Beginning in 1930 the AHS increased publication of the Bulletin from three to four times a year.
From the start of World War II (1941-45) until the mid-1960s the Bulletin appeared sporadically, with a seven-year gap in publication from 1957 to 1965. Quarterly publication resumed in 1966. Many of the essays focused on Atlanta. The topics were diverse—architecture, the Civil War (1861-65), education, literature, medicine, music, sports, and transportation. Contributing authors were a combination of local “amateur” historians and well-known scholars of the South. The journal also contained articles that focused on various aspects of Georgia—Cherokee County, the Western and Atlantic Railroad, the Georgia Democratic Party, the Farmers’ Alliance, colonial Georgia, Savannah, religion in early Georgia, and the legal history of Georgia, for example.
The AHS also published a number of special issues. After Margaret Mitchell died in 1949, the AHS published a special issue dedicated to her life and career. In 1977 two special issues were published—one on the African American experience in Atlanta and the other on music in Atlanta. More recently, the AHS published a special issue focused on the twentieth-century American South (2001) and another issue focused on automobile racing in the South (2004). Essays included in the former later became the basis for The American South in the Twentieth Century, published by the University of Georgia Press.
In 1978 the Bulletin was renamed the Atlanta Historical Journal to reflect the publication’s purpose as a research-based collection of essays. In 1987 the Atlanta Historical Society broadened its mission to include more articles on the state of Georgia and the South. The publication’s name was changed for a third time to Atlanta History: A Journal of Georgia and the South to reflect the broader focus.
The longest-serving editor was Stephens Mitchell (1930-66). The well-known Atlanta historian Franklin M. Garrett was also involved with the journal for decades, serving in different capacities but primarily as editor emeritus. In 1983 Bradley Rice, a professor of history at Clayton Junior College (later Clayton State University) assumed the editorship of the publication until 2001, when Craig S. Pascoe, an assistant professor of history at Georgia College and State University, became the editor. In 2006, almost eight decades after its initial appearance, the AHS ceased publication of the joural. At the time of its discontinuation, the publication boasted a circulation of approximately 6,000 and an editorial board comprised of noted academics in such fields as history, American studies, political science, and sociology.