Box 16, Folder 36, Document 5

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Box 16, Folder 36, Document 5

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S. 1 732
July 2 6, 19 6 3
July 2 6, 19 63
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Senate Commerce Committee:
I am honored to appear before your Committee.
At the beginning I would like to make it clear that I feel qualified to speak on the subject under discussion which is the elimination
of racial discrimination, on what I have learned from personal
experience and observation in my home city of Atlanta, Georgia.
As perceptive m e n of wide experience I feel confident that you will
agree with m e that this is as serious a basic problem in the North,
East and West as it is in the South.
It must be d e fined as an all-American problem, which requires
an all-American solution based on local thought, local action and
local cooperation.
The 500, 000 pe ople w ho live within our city limits consist of
300, 000 white cit i zens a nd slightly more than 200, 000 Negro citizens.
That makes the popula tion of Atlanta 60 percent white, 40 percent
N e g ro.
That 60 - 4 0 p e rcentage emphasizes how essential it is for the
p e ople of Atlanta, on the i r lo c al leve l, to solve the problem of racial
d iscriminat ion in order to make Atlanta a b e tter place in which to
live .
Elimination of r acial des crimination is no far off philosophical
the ory to the more tha n one million people who live in and around
A tlant a. T h e p roble m is part a nd parce l of our daily live s. Its
solutio n must b e studied and w o rke d out on our home f r ont.
As the mayor of the Southeast' s l arge st city , I ca n s a y to y ou
out of fi rst hand experi e n ce a nd first hand knowledge that nowhere
does t he problem of eliminat i ng dis c r imination between the races
strike s o closely home as it does to the loca l ele cte d public o fficial.
He is t he man who cannot pass the buck.
From this viewpoint, I speak of the probl e m as having b een
brought into sharp focus by de c is i ons of the Supr e me Court of t he
�United States and then generally ignored by the Presidents and
Congresses of the United States. Like a foundling baby, this awesome problem has been left on the doorsteps of local governments
throughout the n~tion.
Now to take up specifics. You gentlemen invited me to tell
you how Atlanta has achieved a considerable measure of comparative
success in dealing with racial discrimination.
It is true that Atlanta has achieved success in eliminating
discrimination in areas where some other cities have failed, but
we do not boast of our success. Instead of boasting, we say with
the humility of those who believe in reality that we have achieved
our measure of success only because we looked facts in the face
and accepted the Supreme Court's decisions as inevitable and as
the law of our land. Having embraced realism in general, we then
set out to solve specific problems by local cooperation between
people of good will and good sense representing both races.
In attacking the specific problems, we accepted the basic
truth that the solutions which we sought to achieve in every instance
granted to our Negro citizens rights which white American citizens
and businesses previously had reserved to themselves as special
These special privileges long had been propped up by a
multitude of local ordinances and statewide laws which had upheld
racial segregation in almost every conceivable form.
In Atlanta we had plenty of the props of prejudice to contend
with when we set out to solve our specific problems of discrimination.
In attacking these problems, I want to emphasize that in not one single
instance have we retained or enhanced the privileges of segregation.
It has been a long, exhausting and often discouraging process
and the end is far from being in sight.
In the 1950's Atlanta made a significant start with a series
of reasonable eliminations of discrimination such as on golf courses
and public transportation. We began to become somewhat conditioned for more extensive and definitive action, which has been
taking place in the 19 60 1 s.
During the past two and a half years, Atlanta has taken the
following major steps to eliminate racial discrimination:
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1. In September, 1961, we began re moving discrimination
in public schools in response to a court order.
2. In October, 1961, lunch counters in department and variety
stores abolished discrimination by volunta r y action.
3. On January 1, 1962 Atlanta city facilities were freed from
discrimination by voluntary action of municipal officials.
4. In M a rch, 19 62 downtown and arts theatres, of their own
volition, abolished disc r imina tion in seating.
5 . On January 1, 1963, the city voluntarily abolished separate
employ ment listing s fo r whites and Negroes.
6. In M arch, 19 63 the cit y employed Negro firemen.
ago employed Negr o police men .
It long
7 . In May of 1963 the Atlanta Re al E state Board (white) and
t he Empire Real Estate Board (Negro) issued a Statement of
Pur poses, calling fo r e t hi c al handling of real estate transactions
in controve rs ial are as .
8. In J u ne , 19 63, the c ity gove rnment opened all municipal
swimming p ools on a desegregate d b a sis . This was v oluntary action
t o comply with a c ou r t order .
9 . Also in J une, 1963, 18 h ote l s and motels, rep r esenting the
leading places of pub lic acc ommoda tions in the city , volunta rily
removed a ll s egre ga tion for conventi ons.
10 . Again, in J une, 1963 m o re tha n 30 of the city's l e ading
resta urants, of the i r own volition, ab olishe d s eg r egation in their
facilities .
You can readily see that Atlanta ' s s t e ps have been taken i n
some instance s in compliance with court decis ions , and in other
inst a n ce s the steps have been v oluntary prior to any court action.
In e ach instance the actio n has resu lted in white citi zens relin ~
quishing spe c ial privileges which they had enjoyed unde r the
pra cti ce s of r acia l disc r imination. Each action also has resulted
in the Negr o citizen being given r ights which all others previously
had enjoyed and whi ch he has been den ie d.
A s I mentioned a t the beginning, Atlanta has ac h iev e d on ly
�a measure of succe ss . I think it would assist you in understanding
this if I explained h ow limite d so fa r has been this transition from
the old segregated society of generations past, and also how limited
so far has been th,e participation of the Negro citizens.
Significant as is the voluntary elimination of discrimination in
our leading restaurants, it affects so far only a small percentage of
the hundreds of eating places in our city.
And participation by Negroes so far has been very slight. For
example, one of Atlanta's topmost restaurants served only 16 out of
Atlanta's 200,000 Negro citizens during the first week of freedom
from discrimination.
The plan for eliminating discrimination in hotels as yet takes
care only of convention delegates. Although prominent Negroes
have been accepted as guests in several Atlanta hotels, the Negro
citizens, as a whole, seldom appear at Atlanta hotels.
Underlying all ·the emotions of the situation, is the matter of
economics. It should be r e membere d that the right to use a facility
does not mean that it will be used or misused by any group, especially the groups in the lower economic status.
The statements I have givep you cover the actual progress
made by Atlanta toward total elimination of discrimination.
Now I w ou l d like to submit m y personal reasons why I think
Atlanta has resolved some of t hese problems while in other cities,
s olutions h ave seemed i mpossible and s trife and conflict have
res ulted .
As an illustration, I w ould like to describe a recent visit of
an official delegation fr om a g r eat Ea s te r n city which has a Negro
population of over 600, 00 0 c ons isting of in excess of 20% of its
whole popula tion.
The members of t h is de l egation at first simply did not understa nd and would hardl y believe t hat the b u siness, civic and political
inte r e sts of Atlanta had inte ntly c on cerne d themselves with the
Negro population. I s till do n ot be lieve that they are convinced
t hat a ll of our civic bodies backed b y the pub lic inte r est and sup ported by the City Government have daily c once rned themselves
with an effort to solve our gravest problem -- which is r elations
between our races. Gentlemen, Atlant a has n ot s wept this
�question under the rug at any point. Step by step - sometimes
under Court order - sometimes voluntarily moving ahead of
pressures - sometimes adroitly - and many times clumsily - we
have tried to find a solution to each specific problem through an
agreement between the affected white ownership and the Negro
To do this we have not appointed a huge general bi-racial
committee which too often merely becomes a burial place for unsolved problems. By contrast, each time a specific problem has
come into focus, we have appointed the people involved to work
out the solution . . . Theatre owners to work with the top Negro
leaders . . . or hotel owners to work with the top leadership . . •
or certain restaurant owners who of their own volition dealt with
top Negro leadership. By developing the lines of communication
and respectability, we have been able to reach amicable solutions.
Atlanta is the world's center of Negro higher education.
There are six great Negro universities and colleges located inside
our city limits. Because of this, a great number of intelligent,
well-educated Negro citizens have chosen to remain in our city.
As a result of their education, they have had the ability to develop
a prosperous Negro business community. In Atlanta it consists of
financial institutions like banks - building and loan associations life insurance companies - chain drug stores - real estate dealers.
In fact, they have developed business organizations, I believe, in
almost every line of acknowledged American business. There are
also many Negro professional men.
Then there is another powerful factor working in the behalf of
good racial relations in our city. We have news media, both white
and Negro, whose leaders strongly believe and put into practice the
great truth that responsibility of the press (and by this I mean radio
and television as well as the written press) is inseparable from
freedom of the press.
The leadership of our written, spoken and televised news
media join with the business and government leadership, both white
and Negro, in working to solve our problems.
We are fortunate that we have one of the world famous editorial
spokesmen for reason and moderation on one of our white newspapers,
along with other editors and many reporters who stress significance
rather than sensation in the reporting and interpretation of what
happens. in our city.
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�And we are fortunate in having a strong Negro daily newspaper,
The Atlanta Daily World, and a vigorous Negro weekly, The Atlanta
The Atlanta Daily World is owned by a prominent Negro family the. Scott family - which owns and operates a number of other newspapers.
The sturdy voices of the Atlanta Daily World and the Atlanta
Inquirer, backed by the support of the educational, business and
religious community, reach out to our Negro citizens. They speak
to them with factual information upon which they can rely. They
express opinions and interpretations in which they can have faith.
As I see it, our Negro leadership in Atlanta is responsible and
constructive. I am sure that our Negro leadership is as desirous of
obtaining additional civic and e conomic and personal rights as is any
American citizen. But by constructive I mean to define Atlanta's
Negro leadership as being realistic - as recognizing that it is more
important to obtain the rights they s eek than it is to stir up demonstrations. So it is to the constructive means by which these rights
can be obtained that our Negro leaders constantly address themselves.
They are interested in results instead of rhetoric. They reach for
lasting g oals instead of grabbing for mome ntary publicity . They are
r ealists , not r a bble rous e rs. Along with i nte grati on the y wa nt
i ntegrity.
I do not believe that any sincere American citizen desires to
s ee the rights of private busine ss restricted by the Federal Gove rnm e nt unless such restriction is absolutely nece ssary for the welfare
of the pe ople o f this c ountry .
On the other hand, following the line of thought of the decisions
of the F ede r al Courts in the past 15 years, I am not conv inced that
current r uling s of the Cour ts would g rant to Ame rican busine ss the
privilege of dis crimina t i on b y ra c e in the se le ction of its cus tomers.
Here again we get into the area of wha t i s right and wha t is
best fo r the people of this country . If the privilege of s e lection
based on r a c e a n d color should be grante d the n would we b e g iving
t o busine s s the r i ght to s e t up a segregat e d economy? . . . And
if so, how fast wou l d t h i s r i ght b e u t ilized by t he Na tion's pe o ple?
. . . And how soon would we again be going t hrough t he old turmoil
of riots, strife, demonstrations, boycotts, picketing?
�Are we g oing to say that it is all right for the N egro citizen
to go into the bank of Main street to deposit his earnings or borrow
money, then to go the department store to buy what he needs, to go
to the superma rke t to purchase food for his family, and so on along
Main street until he comes to a restaurant or a hotel -- In all these
other business places he is treated just like any other customer - But when he comes to the restaurant or the hotel, are we going to
say that it is right and legal for the operators of these businesses,
merely as a matter of convenience, to insist that the Negro's
citizenship be changed and that, as a second class citizen, he is
to be refused service ? I submit that it is not right to allow an
American's citizenship to b e changed merely as a matter of convenie nce.
If the Cong ress should fail to clarify the issue at the pre s e nt
time, then by inference it w ould be saying that you could begin discrimination under the guise of private business. I do not believe
that this is what the Supreme Court has intended with its decisions.
I do not believe that this is the intent of Congress o r the people of
this country.
I ap'.l not a lawye r, Senators. I am not sure I clearly understand all of the testimony involving various amendments to the
Constitution and the Commerce clause whi c h has b een given to this
Committee. I have a fundament al respect for the Constitution of
the United States. Under this Constitution we have always been
able to do what is b est for all of the people of this country. I b eg
of y ou not to let this issue of discrimination.drown in legalistic
waters. I am firm ly convince d that the Supreme Court insists
that the same fundamental rights must be he l d by every American
Atlanta is a case that proves that the problem of discrimination
can be s olved to some extent . . . and I use this "some extent"
cautiously . . . as we certainly have not solved all of the problems;
but we have met them in a number of areas. This can be done locally,
voluntarily, and by private business itself!
On the other hand, there are hundre ds of communities and
cities, certainly throughout the nation that have not ever addressed
themse lves to the issue. Whereas, others have flag rantly ignored
the demand, and today, stand in all defiance to any change.
The Congress of the Unite d States is now confronte d with a
grave decision. Shall you pass a public accommodation bill that
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�forces this issue ? Or, sha ll y ou c r e ate a not her round of dispute s
over segregation b y r e fusin g to pass su ch l e gislation ?
Surely, the Congr ess realiz e s that after having failed to take
any definite action on this subject in the last ten years, to fail to
pass this bill would amount to an endorsement of private business
setting up an entirely ne w status of discrimination throughout the
nation. Cities like Atlanta m i ght slip backwards. Hotels and
restaurants that h ave alre ady t ake n this i ssue upon themselves
and opened their doors mig ht find it conve nie nt to go back to the
old status. Failure b y Congress to take definite action at this
time is by inference an endorsement of the right of private business
to practice racial discrimination and, in my opinion, would start
the same old round of squabbles and demonstrations that we have
had in the past.
Gentlemen, if I had y our problem armed with the local experience I have had, I would pass a public accommodation bill,
Such a bill, however, should provide an opportunity for each local
government first to meet this problem and attempt to solve it on a
local, voluntary basis, with e ach business making its own decision .
I realize that it is quite eas y to ask you to give an opportunity to
each businessman in each city to make his decision and to accomplish such an objective . . . but it is extre m e ly difficult to le gislate such a proble m .
What I am t r y ing to s a y i s that the pupil pla c eme nt pla n ,
which has b e en wide ly us e d in the South, prov ide d a time t a ble
approved b y the Fe dera l c ourt s w hi c h he lpe d in ge tting ove r t roubled
water of elimina tion of di scrim ination i n public schools. It se ems
to me that c itie s work ing with p rivat e bus ines s institutions could now
move into the same a rea and tha t the fe deral g ove rnm e nt legislation
should be bas ed on t h e i dea that tho se bus ines ses h ave a reasonab le
time to accomplis h such a n a ct.
I think a public acco m modation law now should stand only as
the last r esor t to assure t h a t dis crimination is eliminated, but that
su ch a law would grant a reas onab l e t ime for c itie s a nd bus ines ses
to c a r r y out this func tion before federa l i nterve ntion.
It m i ght even b e necess a ry tha t the time facto r b e m a de more
l enient in favor of smaller cit ies and communities, for we all know
t ha t l arge metropolitan areas have the capability of adjusting to
changes more rapidly than smaller communities.
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Perhaps this, too, should be given consideration in your
legislation. But the point I want to emphasize again is that now is
the time for legislative action. We cannot dodge the issue. We
cannot look back over our shoulders or turn the clock back to the
1860's. We must take action now to assure a greater future for
our citizens and our country.
A hundred years ago the abolishment of slavery won the
United States the acclaim of the whole world when it made every
American free in theory.
Now the elimination of segregation, which is slavery's stepchild, is a challenge to all of us to make every American free in
fact as well as in theory - and again to establish our nation as the
true champion of the free world.
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, I want to
thank you for the opportunity of telling you about Atlanta's efforts
to provide equality of citizenship to all within its borders .

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