Box 16, Folder 36, Document 12

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Box 16, Folder 36, Document 12

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1 732
July 2 6, 19 63
July 2 6, 19 63
Mr. Cha i rman a nd Members of the Senate Commerce Committee:
I am h ono re d to appe ar before your Committee.
At the b egin n ing I w ould like to make it clear that I feel qualified t o speak on t h e subject under discussion which is the elimination
o f ra cia l d i s crimination, o n w hat I have learned from personal
experi e n ce and ob s e rvation in my home city of Atlanta, Georgia.
As perceptive men of wide e x perience I feel confident that you will
ag r e e with me that this i s as serious a basic problem in the North,
Eas t a nd West a s it is i n the South.
It must b e de fined as an all-America n problem, w hich require s
an a ll-Am erican s olution bas e d on loca l thought, local action a nd
local coope ration .
The 500, 00 0 pe ople who live within our city limits consist of
300 , 000 whit e c itize ns a nd slightly m ore t han 200,000 Ne gro c itizens .
T h a t m a k e s the p opulation of Atla nta 60 perc e nt white , 4 0 p erc ent
That 60 - 40 pe r c entage e mphasi zes how essential it is fo r t he
pe ople of A tlan t a , on the i r local l eve l, to s olv e the problem o f racial
dis crimination in o rder t o make A tlanta a better pla c e in which t o
l ive .
Elimin a t ion of r a c i a l desc r i mination i s no fa r off philos ophical
theory to the m o r e than one million people w ho live in a n d a r oun d
Atlant a . T h e proble m i s pa rt and p arce l of our daily lives. It s
sol uti on must b e s t u die d a n d w orke d out on our homefront.
As the mayor of the Southeast ' s l arge st city, I can say to y ou
o ut of f i rst hand expe rie n c e a nd firs t hand knowl edge that n o where
does t he problem of e liminating discrimination between the races
strik e so close ly hom e as it d o es to the l ocal e l ected public official.
He is the m a n who ca nnot pass the buck.
From this viewpoint , I speak of the problem as ha v ing b een
brought into sharp fo cus by d ecisions of the Supr e me Cou rt 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 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 1s 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
follow i ng major steps to eliminate racial discrimination:
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�1. In Se ptember, 1961, we b e gan re moving discrimination
in public schools in r e sponse 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 c ity voluntarily abolished separate
employment listings fo r wh it e s a nd Negroe s.
6. In M a rch, 1963 the cit y employed Negro firemen.
ago employed Ne gro policemen .
It long
7. In May of 19 63 the Atlanta R e a l E state Board (white ) and
t h e Empire R e a l E stat e B oard (Negro) i ssue d a Sta t ement of
Purposes, c alling for ethical handling of real estate transactions
in controversia l a r e as.
8. In J u n e , 19 63, t he c i ty g ove rnment ope ned all municipal
swimming pools on a dese gre gat e d b asis. Thi s wa s v oluntary action
to c omply w ith a c ourt o rde r.
9. Also in June , 1963, 18 hotels and motels, r e p re s e nting the
l e ading p l ace s of pub lic ac c ommoda tion s in the c ity , v olunta rily
removed a ll segregat i on for conve ntions.
10 . Again, in June, 1963 mo re tha n 30 of the cit y's l e adin g
restau rants, of their own v olition, a bolis he d s e gregation i n the i r
fa c ilities.
You can readily s ee tha t Atlant a 's ste ps have b e en taken i n
som e inst ances in c omplia n ce with cou r t de cisions, and in other
i nstances the s t e ps h av e b e en voluntary prior to a ny c our t actio n.
In e a ch inst ance the a ction has r esulte d in whit e c itizens re l in·quishing special priv ilege s whic h the y had e njoyed under t he
pra ctices of racial discrimination. Each action a l so has r esulted
in the Ne gro c itizen being g iv e n r ights which a ll othe r s previously
had enj oyed an d whic h h e has been denie d.
As I mentione d a t the b e ginnin g, Atlanta has achiev e d only
�a measure of success. I think it would assist you in understanding
this if I explained how limited so far has been this transition from
the old segregated society of gene r ations past, and also how limited
so far has been the 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 rememb e red that the right to use a facility
does not mean that it will be used o r misuse d by any group, especially the groups in the lower economic status .
The stateme nts I have givep you cover the actual progress
made by Atlanta toward total elimination of discrimination.
Now I would like to submit m y personal reasons why I think
Atlanta has r es olved s ome of t hese p r oble ms while in other cities,
solutions hav e s ee me d i mpos s ible and strife a nd conflict have
As an illus t ration, I w ould like t o de scribe a recent visit of
an official dele gati on from a great Eastern city which has a Negro
population of over 600 , 000 consisting of in excess of 20% of its
whole population.
The m emb e rs of thi s de l e gation at firs t simply did not understand and w ould hardly be lieve that t he business, civic and political
inte rests of Atlanta had inte ntly conce rned themselves with the
Negro population. I s t ill do not b e lieve that they are convinced
that all of ou r civi c b o dies backe d by t he pub lic inte r est and support ed b y the C ity Govern ment have da ily concern e d t hemselves
with an effort to solve our gravest problem -- whi c h is re lations
betwee n our races. Ge ntlemen , Atlanta has n ot s wept 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 cent er of Negro higher education.
There are six great Negro univer sities and colleges locate d 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 c ompanies - 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 p rob lems.
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.
�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
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 w e again b e g oing through the old turmoil
of riots, s trife , demonstrations, boycotts , picketing?
�Are we going to say that it is a ll right for the Negro 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 supermarket to purchase fo od 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 c hanged merely as a matter of conveni ence.
If the Congress should fail to clarify the issue at the present
time, then by inference it would be say ing 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.pi not a lawyer, Senators. I am not s ure I clearly understand all of the t e stimony involving various amendments to the
Constitution and the Commerce clause which has been g iven to this
Committee . I have a fundamental respe ct for the Constitution of
the United States. Unde r this Constitution 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 you not to let this issue of discrimination. drown in legalistic
waters. I am firm ly convince d that the Supr e me Court insist s
that the same fundame nta l r i g ht s m u st b e he ld by every Ame rican
Atlanta i s a case t hat p roves that t he problem of dis c rim ination
can be solved to some extent . . . and I use this "some extent"
cautiously . . . as we ce rtainly have not solve d all of the problems;
but we have met them in a number of areas . This can be done loca lly ,
voluntarily, a nd b y p r ivat e bus iness its e lf !
On the other hand, there are hund re ds of communities and
cit ies, certainly thr oughout the nation tha t have n ot ever addressed
themselves to the issue . Whereas , othe rs have flagrantly ignor ed
the de m a nd, and t o day, s t and in a ll de fia n ce to any change .
The Congress of the United St ates is n ow c onfront ed with a
grave de cision. Shall you pass a public a ccommodation bill that
�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 cif 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 Cong ress 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 r ound of squabbles and demonstrations that we h ave
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 b i ll, however, should provide an opportunity for each local
government first to-m ee t this proble m a nd a ttempt 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 g ive 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 he lped in getting ove r troubled
water of elimination of dis crimination in public schools. It seems
to me that cities working with private busines s institutions could now
move into the same area and that the federa l g overn ment l egislation
should be based on the idea that thos e bus ine sses have a reasonable
time to accomplish such an act.
I think a publi c accommoda tion l aw now should stand only as
the last resort to assure that discrimination is e liminat e d, but tha t
s u ch a l aw would grant a reasonab l e time for cit ies and businesses
to carry out this function before federal intervention.
It might even b e n ecessa ry that the time factor b e ma de more
l e nie nt in favor of smaller cities a nd communities, for we all know
that l arge metropolitan areas have the capab ility of adj usting to
changes more rapidly tha n smaller c ommunities.
�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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