The popular image of Henry W. Grady is that of a champion of the postbellum South, a region that would forgive the North for defeating it and would mobilize its own many resources for hones business and agricultural competition. Biographies and collections of Grady’s essays and speeches that appeared shortly after his death enhanced this image, and for a half-century, Grady was considered the personification of the New South Movement, a movement which promised industrialization for the South, an improved Southern agriculture, and justice and opportunity for black Southerners. As managing editor of the Atlanta Constitution, he espoused the New South throughout the nation and was in demand as a speaker for audiences in New York and Boston.
Through extensive research, focusing on the decade of the 1880s in Georgia, Davis demonstrates that although Grady said all the right things to show that he wished to industrialize the South and that he was committed to the improvement of agriculture and fairness in racial matters, in fact he spent most of his efforts on behalf of Atlanta. His major interest was in making a difference for that city, leaving the rest of the South to enjoy whatever Atlanta could not garner for itself.