Modern Civil Rights part II
b. Analyze the role Georgia and prominent Georgians played in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and 1970s; include such events as the founding of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Sibley Commission, admission of Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter to the University of Georgia, Albany Movement, March on Washington, Civil Rights Act, the election of Maynard Jackson as mayor of Atlanta, and the role of Lester Maddox.
The Major Developments of the Civil Rights Movement (1960-1970)
The struggle for civil rights in Georgia continued throughout the 1960s. At the beginning of the decade, the Sibley Commission recommended that each school district be given the opportunity to determine if it would integrate its schools or not. In 1961, Atlanta became the first system in the state to do so. In the same year, Martin Luther King Jr. attempted to conduct a civil rights campaign in Albany similar to the one he led in Montgomery. He believed this campaign to be unsuccessful but a learning experience. Throughout the 1960s civil rights activists for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) continued to target Georgia. In 1963, Savannah became one of the most integrated cities in the South, due to the efforts of the NAACP. Soon after, Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allan Jr., Coca-Cola president Robert Woodruff, and other business leaders, worked with civil rights leaders to insure that Atlanta desegregated peacefully. In the 1970s, Governor Jimmy Carter called for an end to discrimination in Georgia, and African-Americans such as Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young were elected to high political office. Still, Georgia was slow to change its segregationist polices, especially in the rural areas of the state. While the Civil Rights Act of 1964and the Voting Rights Act of1965 changed life for African-Americans in major cities, in rural portions of the state, the struggled continued for many more years.
The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
The SNCC (pronounced “snick”)was one of the major civil rights organizations of the 1960s. A national organization formed in North Carolina, it worked with the Southern Leadership Conference and focused on orchestrating peaceful, non-violent protest. The group, made up of high schooland college-aged students, became known for sit-ins, freedom rides, and the “freedom summer” in Mississippi. In Georgia, the group began its focus on the cities of Albany and Atlanta. In Albany, the group was at the forefront of the Albany Movement,which many considered to be unsuccessful. However, the Albany Movement was beneficial in helping the group later organize more successful protests. In Atlanta, the group organized successful sit-ins in the city in 1960. After moving their focus from Mississippi back to Atlanta in 1964, the group was victorious in helping African-Americans gain several General Assembly seats in the reapportionment election; for example, Julian Bond, who was the SNCC’s communications director.
The Sibley Commission
After the Brown v. Board supreme court decision, the Georgia General Assembly supported “massive resistance” to the desegregation of Georgia’s public schools. By 1960, Georgia Governor Ernest Vandiver was facing the choice of following federal mandates or closing Georgia’s public schools. Not wanting to make the choice without the input of the voters, Vandiver pushed for legislation that would create a committee to investigate Georgians’ opinions on the matter. John Sibley, a segregationist lawyer who also believed resistance to federal mandates was useless, led 10 hearings across the state to determine if the people felt that they should continue to resist the federal government or change laws to integrate schools (though Sibley wanted laws that would allow integration on a very small scale). After the sessions, 60% of Georgians claimed that they would rather close the public schools than to integrate. Despite the findings, Sibley pushed for schools in Georgia to desegregate on a limited basis. Based on the commission’s findings, the legislature was set to vote on the matter in January 1961, but the integration of the University of Georgia shifted the governor’s and the legislature’s focus. After attempting to close the University of Georgia, only to be over ruled by a federal judge, Vandiver gave in and asked the General Assembly to accept Sibley’s recommendations. Later that year, the city of Atlanta desegregated its schools.
The Desegregation of the University of Georgia
In 1959, Hamilton Holmes (1941-1995) and Charlayne Hunter (b.1942) did what many young people do after graduation: applied for college. Holmes was his school’s valedictorian, president of the senior class, and co-captain of the football team. Hunter was involved in several organizations at her school including the school newspaper and honors society. She was elected homecoming queen and graduated third in her class. Obviously these two students would have been ideal candidates for any institution of higher learning. However, both were not accepted by the University of Georgia based on their race. Publically the University claimed their rejection was due to lack of housing along with Holmes’ “evasiveness” during a campus interview. After numerous denials, the two students brought their case to federal court. After only three weeks, the court ruled in favor of Hunter and Holmes. They began classes on January 6, 1961. Soon after arriving on campus, a mob of students, locals, and members of the KKK started a riot on campus and threw bricks and rocks through Hunter’s dorm window (Holmes lived off campus). The Georgia state patrol escorted both Hunter and Holmes back to Atlanta. A few days later, the court ruled that Hunter and Holmes be reinstated and allowed to return to the campus. Both Hunter and Holmes graduated from the University and though they were not treated well by their peers, they were never in physical danger after the initial riot. Holmes became a successful doctor in the Atlanta area until his death in 1995. Hunter became a well-respected journalist and is still working in the profession today. In 2001, the University of Georgia celebrated the 40th anniversary of its desegregation by renaming the academic building after Hunter and Holmes. Note:The first African-American to graduate from the University of Georgia was not Holmes or Hunter, but Mary Frances Early (b. 1936). Early was a graduate student who transferred from the University of Michigan in 1962. She graduated that same year with a Master’s degree in music education.
The Albany Movement
After the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, civil rights leaders in other southern cities sought to challenge segregation laws. One of the cities selected was Albany, in southwest Georgia. Starting in the fall of 1961, members of SNCC and the local community began to protest the segregationist policies of the city. Massive resistance from whites and the police department led to over 500 protesters landing in jail. However, unlike Montgomery, many of Albany’s black middle class did not initially support the protests. In turn, police chief Laurie Pritchett used non-violent tactics to arrest, but not harm the protestors. To draw more national attention to the cause the SNCC invited Martin Luther King Jr. to take part in the protest. Though arrested many times, King was released from jail almost immediately (though against his will). Chief Pritchett also made sure he had enough room to imprison all the protestors and workedwith other counties to send the demonstrators to their jails as well. In the end most of the protestors were jailed leaving very few to protest. By the summer of 1962, King viewed the Albany Movement as a failed attempt to desegregate an entire community, but a valuable learning experience. He used what he learned, including the power of protest songs, in his successful Birmingham campaigns. However, the black citizens of Albany believed that they had accomplished much. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia,after King and the members of SNCC left the city, black voter registration led to a run-off election for an African-American nominee for a county commission seat. More importantly, the next spring the “county commission removed all segregation statutes from their books.” In 1998, the Albany Civil Rights Institute opened to commemorate the Civil Rights Movement and the role Albany played.
The March on Washington
In 1963, over 250,000 civil rights activists gathered in Washington D.C. to promote their cause and push for civil rights legislation. During the march, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave what is arguably his most famous speech: “I Have a Dream.” The March on Washington led to the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964and The Voting Rights Act of 1965,and made King the most well-known spokes person of the Civil Rights Movement.
The Civil Rights Acts
Due in part to the March on Washington, the U.S. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. All bills were signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The descriptions of these are as follows:
The Civil Rights Act of 1964:Forbade discrimination on the basis of sex and race in hiring, promoting, and firing.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965: Prohibited states from imposing any voting qualification on voting or deny the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.
Maynard Jackson (1938-2003) was the first African-American mayor of a major southern city. Born in Dallas, Texas, Jackson and his family moved to Atlanta in 1945 when his father became the pastor of a local church. Jackson’s mother taught French at Spelman College. His maternal grandfather, John Wesley Dobbs, was a civil rights activist and the founder of the Georgia Voters League. Jackson attended Morehouse College and graduated in 1956 when he was only 18. He went on to Boston University to work on a law degree, which he did not compete. After working several jobs, he finished his law degree in 1964 at North Carolina Central University. Jackson eventually moved back to Georgia and in 1968 ran against Herman Talmadge for Senate where he lost handily. However, he won the majority of votes from the city of Atlanta and became a force to be reckoned with in the city’s politics. The next year, he became vice-mayor of Atlanta, and four years later was elected mayor. He was only 35 years old at the time of his election. Jackson served as mayor of Atlanta from 1973-1981 and again from 1990-1994. While mayor he was instrumental in providing more contract work to black-owned businesses and expanding Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport. He also sought to add more black police officers to the city’s police force and to make sure that more African-Americans were promoted in the department. During his term in the 1990s, he worked closely with Andrew Youngand Billy Paine to bring the Olympics to the city. Jackson retired from public life in 1994 due to health problems. He continued to be active in business and started his own security and bond company. There was discussion in 2003 of him running for the U.S. Senate but poor health caused him to withdraw from the race. Jackson died later that year in Washington D.C. In his honor, the city of Atlanta renamed Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
During a period of great social and political change in Georgia, Lester Maddox(1915-2003) stands out as the last overtly segregationist governor in the state’s history. Ironically, Maddox appointed more African-Americans to government positions than all prior Georgia governors combined. He also received support of both whites and blacks alike due to his “little people’s days.” Twice a month, average people could stand in line to meet with the governor. Nonetheless, Maddox was criticized for not allowing flags at state buildings to be flown at half-mast after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., and for his fight against the civil rights platform of the Democratic Party at their 1968 National Convention. Maddox was born in Atlanta. After dropping out of high school, he worked several jobs, including the Bell Bomber factory during World War II. In 1947, he opened the Pickrick restaurant near the campus of Georgia Tech. He gained fame throughout Georgia due to his advertisements for the restaurant that he placed in the Atlanta Journal newspaper. Later, he was known throughout the nation for his use of ax handles to forcefully remove African-Americans who tried to integrate his restaurant. He later closed the Pickrick rather than allow it to be integrated. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he, ran two unsuccessful campaigns for mayor of Atlanta, losing to William B. Hartsfield and Ivan Allen, Jr. (see Teacher Note SS8H10). He also ran for Lieutenant Governor in1962, losing to another segregationist candidate in the Democratic primary. In 1966, Maddox surprised many by beating Ellis Arnall (see teacher note SS8H10) for Governor in the Democratic primary. In the general election, he actually lost the popular voteto Republican candidate Bo Callaway, but was selected by the Georgia Legislature due to Callaway not gaining a majority. After his term as Governor was over, due to constitutional term limits, Maddox ran for Lieutenant Governor. Serving as Lieutenant Governor, he often clashed with Governor Jimmy Carter over many issues. Maddox ran for governor again in 1974 but was defeated. He also ran for president in 1976. After retiring from politics, he operated several other businesses, but none were as profitable as the Pickrick. Throughout his life he never apologized for his defense of segregation. Maddox died of cancer at the age of 87.
c. Discuss the impact of Andrew Young on Georgia.
Andrew Young (b. 1932) was born to middle class parents in New Orleans, Louisiana. He graduated from Howard University with a degree in biology. From there, he went on to Hartford, Connecticut, and earned a degree in divinity. He moved to Georgia when he accepted the position of pastor at Bethany Congressional Church, in Thomasville. Living in Georgia, Young became active in the Civil Rights Movement and primarily focused on voter registration drives. In 1961, Young resigned from his job and started working for the SCLC and began organizing “citizenship schools” that helped trained civil rights volunteers in organizing and taking part in non-violent protest. Young soon became a close associate with Martin Luther King Jr. During his time at the SCLC, he successfully organized demonstrations and voter registration campaigns throughout the South. He was with Martin Luther King Jr. the day he was assassinated. In 1972, Young began his political career. He was elected as Georgia’s first African-American Congressman since Reconstruction. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed him ambassador to the United Nations. Though successful in the position, Young resigned in 1979 after meeting with members of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which at the time was considered to be a terrorist organization by the United States. Young soon bounced back and was elected mayor of Atlanta in 1981. As mayor, Young was instrumental in the city’s continued growth and national and international prestige. After leaving office in 1989, Young continued to work for Georgia’s economic development, served as co-chair of Georgia’s 1996 Olympic committee, and worked as a consultant for many international organizations which he continues to do today.