Box 16, Folder 36, Document 6

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Box 16, Folder 36, Document 6

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1 732
July 2 6, 19 63
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 ra c ial discrimination, on what I have learned from personal
experience and obs ervation in my home city of Atlq.nta, Georgia.
As perceptive men of wide experience I feel confident that you will
agree with me that this is as serious a basic problem in the North,
East and West as it i s i n the South.
It must be defined as an all-American problem, which requires
an all-American s olution based on local thought, local action and
local cooperation .
The 500, 000 people who live within our city limits consist of
300, 000 white citizens and slightly more than 200, 000 Negro citizens.
That makes the p opulation of Atlanta 60 percent white, 40 percent
That 60 - 40 percentage emphasize s how essential it is for the
people of Atlanta, on their local level, to solve the problem of racial
discrimination in order to make Atlanta a better place in which to
Elimination of racial descrimination is no far off philosophical
theory to the more than one million people who live in and around
Atlanta. The problem is part and parcel of our daily lives. Its
solution must b e s tudie d and worked out on our homefront.
As the mayor of the Southeast's largest city, I can say to you
out of first hand experience and first hand knowledge that nowhere
does the problem of eliminating discrimination between the races
strike so closely home as it does to the local elected public official.
He is the man who cannot pass the buck.
From t his viewpoint, I s peak of the problem as h aving b een
brought i nto sharp focus by deci sions of the Supreme Court of the
�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 nation.
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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�In September, 1961, we began removing discrimination
in public schools in response to a court order.
2. In October, 1961, lunch counters in department and variety
stores abolished ' discrimination by voluntary action.
3. On January 1, 1962 Atlanta city facilities were freed from
discrimination by voluntary action of municipal officials.
4. In March, 1962 downtown and arts theatres, of their own
volition, abolished discrimination in seating.
5. On January 1, 19 63, the city voluntarily abolished separate
employment listings for whites and Negroes.
6. In March, 1963 the city employed Negro firemen.
ago employed Negro policemen .
It long
7. In May of 1963 the Atlanta Real Estate Board (white) and
the Empire Real Estate Board (Negro) issued a Statement of
Purposes, calling for ethical handling of real estate transactions
in controversial areas.
8. In June, 19 63, the city government opened all municipal
swimming pools on a desegregated basis. This was voluntary action
to comply with a court order.
9. Also in June, 1963, 18 hotels and motels, representing the
leading places of public accommodations in the city, voluntarily
removed all segregation for conventions.
10. Again, in June, 1963 more than 30 of the city's leading
restaurants, of their own volition, abolished segregation in their
You can readily see that Atlanta's steps have been taken in
some instances in compliance with court decisions, and in other
instances the steps have been voluntary prior to any court action.
In each instance the action has resulted in white citizens relin~
quishing special privileges which they had enjoyed under the
practices of racial discrimination. Each action also has resulted
in the Negro citizen being given rights which all others previously
had enjoyed and which he has been denied .
As I mentioned at the beginning, Atlanta has achieved on ly
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�a measure of succe ss. I think it would assist you in understanding
this if I explained how l imited so far has b ee n this transition from
the old segregated society of generations past, and also how limited
so far has been t~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 b y 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 e liminating 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 em otions of the situation, is the matter of
economics. It should be remembere d that the right to use a facility
does not mean that it w ill be used o r m isused by any group, especially the groups in the lower economic status.
The statements I have given you cover the actual progress
made by Atlanta toward t otal elimination of discrimination.
Now I wou l d lik e to submit my personal reasons why I think
Atlanta has r e solve d some of these problems while in other cities,
s olutions have seeme d impos s ible and strife and conflict have
As an illustration, I would like to describe a recent visit of
an official dele gation from a great Eastern city which has a Negro
population of ov e r 600 , 000 consisting of in excess of 20% of its
whole population.
The m e m bers of t his de l egation at first simply did not understand and would hardly b e lieve that the business, civic and political
interests of A tlanta had inte ntly c oncerned themselves with the
Negro population. I still do not believe that they are convinced
that a ll of ou r civic b o dies backe d b y the public interest and supp orte d b y the City Government have da ily c oncerned themselves
with an effort to solve our gravest problem -- which is relations
b e twee n our races. Gentlemen, Atlanta ha s not swept this
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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. B e cause 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 - r e al e state dealers.
In .fact , they have deve loped busine ss organizations, I b e lieve, in
almost every line of acknowledged American business. There are
also many Negro professional men.
Then there is another powerful factor working i n the behalf of
g ood r a cial r e lations in our city. W e have news m e dia , both white
a nd Negro, whose l eaders strongly b e liev e a nd put i nto pra ctice 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
free dom of the press.
T h e leadership of our writte n, s poken and t e l evi se d n e w s
media join with the business a nd g overnment leadership, both whit e
a nd Negr o, in wor king to solve our problems .
We are fortunat e tha t we have one of the w o r ld famous e dito rial
spokesmen f o r re a s on and m oderation on one of our white newspapers,
a long with other e dit ors and many r e porters who stress significance
r a the r tha n sensation in the reporting and interpretation of wha t
happens. in our c ity.
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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 economic and personal rights as is any
American citizen. But by constructive I mean to define Atlanta 1 s
Negro leadership as being realistic - as recognizing that it is more
important to obtain t~e rights they seek 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 goals instead of grabbing for momentary publicity. They are
realists, not rabble rousers. Afong with integration they want
I do not believe that any sincere American citizen desires to
see the rights of private business restricted by the Federal Government unless such restriction is absolutely necessary for the welfare
of the people of this country.
On the other hand, following the line of thought of the decisions
of the Federal Courts in the past 15 years, I am not convinced that
current rulings of the Courts would grant to American business the
privilege of discrimination by race in the selection of its customers.
Here again we get into the area of what is right and what is
best for the people of this country. If the privilege of selection
based on race and color should be granted then would we be giving
to business the right to set up a segregated economy? . . . And
if so, how fast would this right be utilized by the Nation's people?
. . . And how soon would we again be going through the old turmoil
of riots, strife, demonstrations, boycotts, picketing?
�Are we going to say that it is all rig ht for the Negro citizen
to go into the bank of Main stree t to deposit his earnings or borrow
money, then to go the department store to buy what he needs, to go
to the supermark~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 be changed merely as a matter of convenience.
If the Congress should fail to clarify the issue at the present
time, then by inference it would 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 or the people of
this country.
I a.p:i not a lawyer, Senators . I am not sure I clearly understand all of the t estimony involving various amendments to the
Constitution and the Commerce clause which has been given to this
Committee. I have a fundamental res pect for the Constitution of
the United State s. Unde r 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 you not to l e t this issue of discrimination.drown in legalistic
waters. I am firm ly convinced that the Supreme Court insists
that the same funda m e ntal rights mus t b e held by every Ameri ca n
Atlanta is a case that proves that the problem of disc r iminat ion
can be solved to some extent . . . and I use this "some extent"
cautiously . . . as we certainly have not solve d all of the problems;
but we have m e t them in a number of are a s . This can be done locally ,
voluntarily, and by priva t e busine ss itse lf!
On the other hand, the r e a re hu nd re ds of communities and
cities, certainly throughout the nation that have not ever addres s ed
themselves to the issue . Where as, others have flagrantly ignore d
the de mand, a nd today , stand in a ll defiance to any c hange.
The Cong r es s of the Unite d St ates is now c onfronte d with a
grave decision. Shall y ou pas s a public accommodation bill that
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�forces this issue? Or, shall y ou create another round of disputes
over segregation by refusing to pass such legislation?
Surely, the Congress realizes 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 new status of discrimination throughout the
nation. Cities like Atlanta might slip backwards. Hotels and
restaurants that have already taken this issue upon themselve s
and opened their doors might find it convenient to go back to the
old status. Failure by 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 your 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 each business making its own decision.
I realize that it is quite easy 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 extremely difficult to l egislate such a problem.
What I am trying to say is that the pupil placement plan,
which has been widely used in the South, provided a time table
approved by the Federal courts which helped in getting over troubled
water of elimination of discrimination in public schools. It s eems
to me that cities working with private business institutions could now
move into the same area and that the federal government legislation
should be based on the idea that those businesses have a reasonab l e
time to accomplish such an act.
I think a public accommodation law now should stand only as
the last resort to assure that discrimination is eliminated, but that
such a law would grant a reasonable time for cities and busine sses
to carry out this function b efore federal intervention.
It might even be necessary that the time factor be made more
lenient in favor of smaller c ities and communities, for we all know
that large 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 bac}{ over our shoulders or turn the clock back to the
1860 1s. 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 establi~h 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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