Box 16, Folder 36, Document 8

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Box 16, Folder 36, Document 8

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1 732
July 2 6, 19 6 3
July 26, 1963 -
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Senate Commerce Committee:
I am hono red to appear before your Committee.
At the b eginning I would like to make it clear that I feel qualifi e d 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.
A s p erceptive men 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 a s it is in the South.
It must be de fined as an all-American problem, which requires
an all-Ame rican solution 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 population of Atlanta 60 percent white, 40 percent
Negro .
That 60 - 40 perce ntage emphasizes how essential it is for the
people of Atlanta, on the ir local level, to solve the problem of racial
disc r imination in order to make Atlanta a better place in which to
Elimination of racial descrimination is no far off philosophical
theory to the mo r e than one million people who live in and around
Atlanta. The prob l e m is part and parcel of our daily lives. Its
s olution mu st be s tudi e d and worked out on our homefront.
As the mayo r 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 this view point, I spe a k of the problem as having been
brought into sharp focus by decisions 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 th~ 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 1s.
During the pa st two a nd a h a lf years, Atla nta has t a k e n the
following major steps to eliminate racial discrimination:
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�1. In September, 1961, we began r emoving 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, 1963, the city voluntarily abolished separate
employment listings for whites and Negroes.
6. In March, 1963 the city employed Negro firemen.
ago employed Negro police men.
It long
7. In May of 1963 the Atlanta Re al 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, 1963, the city government opened all municipal
s w imm i n g p ools o n a des e gregated basis. This was voluntary action
to comply w it h a cou r t order .
9. A ls o i n June, 19 63, 18 hote ls and motels, representing the
l eading p l ace s of public accommodations in the city, voluntarily
remov ed all segregation for conventions .
10. Aga i n, in June, 1963 more than 30 of the city's leading
restaurants, of the i r own volition, a bolished segregation in their
facilities .
You can readily s ee tha t Atlant a ' s steps have been taken in
some i ns t ances in compliance with c our t decisions, and in other
instances t he s t e p s have b een volunt ary p r ior to any cour t action.
In each i nstance the action has r esulted in white citizens r elin qui s hing spe c i a l p r ivileges which they had enjoyed unde r the
practices of racial di scrim ination . Each action also has r esulted
in the Ne gro c iti zen b e i ng g ive n r i ghts which all others p r eviously
had enjoyed and which he has been denied.
As I mentioned at the beginning, Atlanta h a s achieved only
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�a measure of success. I think it would assist you in understanding
this if I e xplained h ow limited so fa r has b e en this transition from
the old segregated society o f g ene r ati ons past, and also how limited
so far has been the participation of the Ne gro citizens.
Significant as is the v oluntary elimination of discrimination in
our leading restaurants , it a ffects so far only a small percentage of
the hundreds of eat ing places i n our city.
And participation by Negroes so far has been very slight. For
example, one o f Atlanta ' s topmost restaurants served only 16 out of
Atlanta's 200,000 Ne gro citi ze ns during the first week of freedom
from discrimi n a tion.
The plan fo r eliminating discrimination in hotels as yet takes
care only of conv ention delegates . Although prominent Negroes
have been accepte d as guests in several Atlanta hotels, t he Negro
citizens, as a whole, seldom appe ar at Atlanta hotels.
Underl ying a ll t he emotions of the sit u a t ion, is the matter of
economics. It should be r ememb ere d that the right to use a facility
does not mean that it will be used o r m i suse d by any group, especially the groups in the lowe r e conomic status .
The s t a t ement s I h ave giv ep y ou c over the actual progress
m a de b y Atla nta toward total elimina t i on o f dis criminat i on.
Now I w ould l ike to s ubmit my personal reasons why I think
Atlanta has r es olve d some of t hese proble ms while in othe r c ities,
solut i ons h ave seeme d i mpossib l e and s t rife and confli ct have
r e sulted.
A s a n i llu stration, I w ould like to de scribe a r ecent v isit of
an offi c ia l de le gation from a gre a t Eas t ern c ity whi ch has a Negr o
popu l ation of over 600, 000 c ons i s ting of in excess of 2 0% of its
whole popul ation.
The membe rs of this de l egation at first simply did n ot u nder stand and would hardly be l ieve t hat the busine ss , c ivic and politica l
inte r e s t s of Atlanta h ad int ently concerne d the m s e lves with the
Negro popula tion. I s till do not b e liev e tha t t h e y a r e c onvinced
tha t a ll of our civic bodie s backed by the public interest a nd s up ported by the City Gove rnme nt have da ily concern ed themse lves
with an e ffort t o s olve our g r a v est p roblem - - which is re l a t ions
b etween our races. Gentlemen, Atlanta has n ot swe pt this
�question under the rug at any point. Ste p 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. B y contrast, each time a specific problem has
come into focus, we have appointed the people involved to work
out the solution . . . Theatre owne rs to work with the top Negro
leaders . . . or hotel owners to work with the top leadership . . .
or ce r t ain re staurant owne rs who of their own volition dealt with
top Negro leadership. By developing the lines of communication
and respectability, we h ave been able to reach amicable solutions.
Atlanta is the world's cent e r of Neg ro higher education.
There are six great Negro univers itie s and colleges located inside
our city limits. B e cause of this, a gre at number of intelligent,
well- e ducated Negro citizens have chosen to remain in our city.
A s a r esult of their education, they have had the ability to develop
a p rospe rou s Neg ro business c ommunity. In Atlanta it consists of
fin a n c ial institutions like banks - building and loan associations life insura n ce c ompanies - chain drug stores - real estate dealers.
In fact, they have developed business organizations, I believe, in
almost every line of a cknowledged American business. There are
also many Negro p r ofess ional m e n .
Then there is another powerful factor working in the behalf of
good racial relations in our city. We hav e news media, both white
and Negro , whose le a ders s t r ong ly b e lieve and put into practice the
g reat t r uth t ha t r esponsibility of the press (and b y this I mean r adio
and t e levision as w ell as the w ritten p r ess) i s inseparable from
free dom of the p r ess .
T he leadership of our w ritten, spoken and televised n e ws
media j oin w ith the b usine ss a n d g overnment l e ade r ship, both wh ite
a n d Negro , i n wo rking to solve our proble m s .
We are fo rtunate t hat we have one of t he wo rld fa mous edit o r ial
spokesmen fo r re a s on a n d mo de r ati on on o n e of our white n e ws papers ,
along with other editors and many reporters who s tre ss s i gnificance
rather than sensati on in the reporting and interpreta tion 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 economic 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 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
p r ivilege of discrimination by race in the selection of its customers.
Here again we get into the are a of what is right and what is
bes t for the people of this countr y . If the privilege of sele ction
based on r ace and colo r should b e granted then would we be giving
to b usiness 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 wou ld we again be goin g thr ough the old tu r moil
of r i ots, str ife, demonst r ations , boyc otts, picketing ?
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�, - - - - - -- -- - - - - -- -- - - -- - -- - --
Are we going to say that it is all right for the Negro citizen
to go into the bank of Main street t o depos it his earnings or borrow
money, then to go the depa r tment store to buy what he needs, to go
to the supermarket to purc hase food fo r his family, and so on along
Main street until he comes to a r esta urant 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 l e gal for the ope rators 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 convenience.
If the Congress should fail to clarify the issue at the present
time, then by inference it would b e s aying 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.p1 not a lawyer, Senators. I am not sure I clearly understand all of the t e stimony involving var ious amendments to the
Constitution and the Commerce cla us e which has b een given to this
Com mittee . I h a v e a fundame nta l re spect fo r the Cons tituti on of
the United St a t es . Under t his Constit ution we have a lways b een
able to do what is b e st for all of the people of this country. I beg
of y ou not to le t this issue of di scriminati on .dr own in legalistic
wa t e rs. I am firmly convince d that t he Supre me Cour t ins i sts
tha t t he s ame fundam e nta l rights mu st b e he l d b y every American
cit izen.
Atlanta i s a case that prove s that the proble m of dis crim ination
can b e solved to s ome extent . . . and I use t his "some extent"
cautiously . . . as we certainly have n ot s olve d all of t he problems;
but we have m et them in a number of areas. This can b e done l ocally,
v oluntarily, and by p riv a t e busine ss its e lf !
On the othe r hand, there are hundre ds of communiti es and
citie s , certain l y thr oughout the nation t hat have not ever addres s ed
t hemselves to the issu e. Whe reas, others have flagrantly igno red
the de mand, and today, s t and in a ll de fiance to any change .
T he Congres s of t he Unit ed St ates is n ow confront e d with a
grave decisi on. Shall y ou pass a public accommodation bill that
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�forces this issue? Or, shall you 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 themselves
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 e ndorsement of the right of private business
to practice rac ial discrimination and, in my opinion, would start
the same old round of squabbles a nd de monstrations that w e 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
governme nt first to m ee t thi s proble m and a tte mpt to solve it on a
local, voluntary basis, with ea ch business making its own decision.
I realize that it is quite easy to ask you to g ive an opportunity to
each businessman in each city to make his decision and to accomplish such an objective . . . but it is ext re mely difficult to legislate such a proble m.
What I am try ing to say is that the pupil placement plan,
which has been wide ly us e d in the South, provided a time t a ble
approved b y the Fe deral c our t s which he lpe d in getting over troubled
wa t er of e limination of discriminat i on i n public s chools. It seems
to m e tha t cities work ing with p rivat e bus ines s ins t itutio ns could now
move into the same area and t hat the federa l g overnment l egi slation
should be based on the idea tha t thos e busine sses have a r eas onable
time to accomplish such an act .
I think a pub li c accommoda tion l aw now should s t and only as
the last resort to assure t ha t di scrimination is e liminat e d , but that
s u ch a law would grant a reas onable time for cit i es and b u sines ses
to c a rry out this fun ction b e fore fe deral intervention.
It might even b e nece ssary tha t the time fa cto r b e ma de m o re
l enient in favor of smalle r cities and communities, for we a ll know
t hat large m e tropolitan areas have the capability of a djusting to
c hanges more rapidly than smaller communities.
�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 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 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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