Box 16, Folder 36, Document 13

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Box 16, Folder 36, Document 13

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......... •.
1 732
July 2 6, 19 63
July 26, 1963
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Senate Commerce Committee:
I am honore d to appear before your Committee .
At the b e ginning I would like to make it clear that I feel qualified to speak on the subject under discussion which is the elimination
of racial discrimi n a tion, on what I have learned from personal
experience and observation in my home city of Atlanta, Georgia.
As perceptive 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 as it is in the. South.
It must be defined as an all-American problem, which requires
an all-American ·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

That 60 - 40 percentage emphasizes 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
live .
Elimination of racial descrimination is no far off philosophical
theory to the more than one million people who live in and around
Atlanta. The proble m is part and parcel of our daily lives. Its
solution must be studied and worked out on our homefront.
As the m ayor of the Southeast's largest city, I can say to you
out of first h a nd exp e rie nce and first hand knowledge that nowhere
doe s the problem of eliminating discrimination between the races
strike so clo se ly home as it does to the local elected public official.
He is the m an w h o cannot pass the buck .
From this viewpoint, I speak of the problem as having been
b r ought i nt o sharp focus by de cisions of the Supr eme 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 :1-ation.
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 proble ms by local cooperation between
people of good will and good sense representing both races. ·
In attacking-the specific problems, we accepted the basic
tr~th 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 eliminatior~s of discrimination such as on golf courses
and public transportatio"i1.· We began to become somewhat conditioned for more extensive and definitive action, which has been
taking place in the 19 60 1s.
Dur ing the past t w o and a half years, Atlanta has taken the
following majo r steps to eliminate racial discrimination :
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1. In September, 1961, we began removing discrimination
in public schools in response to a court order.
2. In October, 1961, lunch counters in departm.ent 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 Ma"rch, 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 fo :i:- whites a nd Negroes.
6. In March, 1963 the city employed Negro firemen.
ago· employed Negro policeme n.
It long
7. In Ma:,,: of 1963 the Atlanta Real Estate Board (white ) and
the Empire R eal Estate Board (Negro) issued a Statement of
Purposes, calling for ethical handling of real estate transactions
in controve rsial areas.
8. In June, 1963, the city government ope n e d a ll municipal_
swimming pools on a desegregat e d basis. This was voluntary action
to compl y with a court order.
9. Also in June, 1963, 18 hotels and mote ls, r epresenting the
leading places of public accommodations in the city, volunta rily
removed all segregation for conventions.
10. Again, in June , 1963 more than 30 of tpe city's l eading
restaurants, of the ir own "':olition, abolished segregation in their
facilities .
You can readily see that Atlanta's s t e ps h ave been t aken in
som e ins t a n ce s in compl iance with court decisions, and in other
ins t a n ces the ste ps h av:e b een volunta ry prior to a ny court action.
In each instance the action ·has resulted in whit e citizens relin-quishing spe cial privileges which they had enj oyed under the
practices of racial discrimina tion. Each action also has resulted
in the Negro citize n b e ing give n rights which a ll othe rs previously
had e njoye d and whi ch h e h as b een de nie d.
As I mentioned at the b e ginning, Atlanta has achieved only
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�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 generations 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 partic"ipation 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. acce pte d 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 remembered 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 would like to submit my personal reasons why I think
Atlanta has resolved some of these problems while in other cities,
solutions have seemed impossible and strife and conflict have
As an illustration, I would like to des cribe a recent visit of
an official delegation from great Eastern city which has a Negro
population of over 600, 000 consisting of in excess of 20% of its
whole population.
The members of this delegation at first simply did not understand and would hardly believe that the business, civic and political
interests of Atlanta had intently concerned themselves with the
Negro population. I still do not believe that they are convinced
that all of our civic bodies backed by the public interest and supported by the City Government have daily concerned themse lves
with an effort to solve our gravest problem - - which is relations
between our races. Gentlemen, Atlanta has not swept 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 bE;tween the affected white ownership and the Negro
To do this we have not appointed a huge general bi-racial
committee which too oft en merely becomes a burial place for unsolved problems. By contrast, each time a specific problem has
" we have appointed the people involved to work
come into focus,
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 Ne gro l e adership . 'By developing the lines of communication
and respectability, v-re ·have been able to reach amicable solutions.
Atlanta is the world's cent e r of Negro higher education.
There are six great Negro universities and colleges located inside
our city limits. Because of this, a gre at numb er 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
prosperous Negro business community. In Atlanta it consists of
financ ial institutions like banks - building and loan associations life insurance companies - chain drug stores - real estate dealers.
In fact, they have develope d business organizations, I believe , in
almost eve ry line of acknowledged American business . There are
also many Negro professional m e n.
Then there is another powerful fact or working in the b ehalf of
good raci a l re lations in our city. We have news m edia, both white
and Negro, whose leade rs strongly b e lieve and put into practice the
··great truth that r e spons ibility of the pre ss (and by this I m ean radio
and t e levision as well as the written press) is insepara ble from
freedom of the ·press.
The leadership of our written, spoken and t e l evised news
media join with the busine ss and gove rnment l e ade r s hip, both white
and Ne gro, in working 'to solve our proble ms .
We are fortunat e that we have one of the wo rld famous editorial
spokesmen for reason and mode ration on one of our white n e wspape rs,
along with othe r editors and m a ny r e porte r s who stress significance
rather tha n sensa tion in the r e porting a nd interpre t a tion of wha t
ha ppe n s. in our c ity.
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�And we a re fo"rtunate in having a str ong Negro da ily new spaper,
The Atlanta Daily World, and a vigorous Negro weekly, The Atlanta
The Atlanta Daily World is owne d by a prominent Negro family the Scott family - which owns and ope rates 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 w hicl). they can rely. They
express opinions and interpretations in which they can have faith.
As I s ee it, our Ne gro l eaders hip in Atla nta is r e sponsible 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 b e ing r e alistic - as r e cogni zing tha t it is more
importa nt to obta in the rights the y s e e k tha n it is to stir up demonstrations. So it is to the con structive m eans by which the s e rights
can be obtained that our Ne g ro leaders constantly address the mselves.
The y are interested in results instead of rhe toric. The y reach for
lasting goals inste ad of grabbing for momentary publicity. They are
realis t s , not rabble rouse rs. Afong with inte gra tion the y want
. inte grity.
I do not believ e that any sincere Ame rican citize n de sires to
see the right s of private busines s r e stricte d by the F ederal Government unless such r e str iction i s ab s olute ly nece ssary fo r the we lfare
of the pe ople of this count ry .
On t h e oth e r ha nd, fo llowing t h e lin e of t hought of the decis i on s
of the Federal Courts in the pa st 15 y e ars, I am not convinced tha t
cur r e nt rulings of the Courts would g r a nt to Ame rica n bus ine ss the
privile ge of discrimination b y race i n the s e l e ction of its cus tom e rs.
Here again we get int o t h e a r ea of wha t i s rig ht a nd wha t i s
b est for t h e p e ople of t his count ry. If t he privilege of se l e ction
b ~se d on race and c olo r ··should b e g r ant e d the n would we b e giving
t o bus iness t he right t o set u p a s egre gat e d e c on omy? . . . And
if so, how fas t would this r ig ht b e utili ze d by th e Na t ion ' s p e opl e ?
. . . .i:\nd how s oon w oul d w e a gain b e g oing t hrough t h e o ld tu rmoil
of r iots, s t rife , demonst rations , b oycotts , picke t ing ?
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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 to de posit his earnings or borrow
money, then to go the department store to buy what he needs, to go
to the supermarket 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 discriminati.on 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 ap1 not a lawyer, Senators. I am not sure I clearly understand all of the testimony involving various amendments to the
Constitution and the Commerce clause which has been given to this
Committee. I have a fund a mental r e spe ct for the Constitution of
the United Sta t e s. Unde r this Constitution we have always be en
able to do what is best for all of the pe ople of this country. I beg
of you not to let this issue of discrimination.drown in legalistic
waters. I am firmly convinced that the Supreme Court insists
that the s a m e fund a m e nta l rig hts mu s t b e he ld by eve ry America n
Atlanta is a case that proves that the problem of discrimination
can be solved to some exte nt . . . and I use this "some extent"
cautiously . . • as we certainly have not solved all of the problems;
but we hav e m e t them in a numb e r of are as. This c an b e done loca lly,
volunta rily, a nd by priva t e business itse lf!
On the othe r ha nd, -the re are hundre ds of communities and
citie s, ce rtainly throughout the nation that have not eve r addre ssed
the mse lve s to the i ssu e . Whe r e as, others have fla g rantly ignore d
the de m a nd, a nd today, s t a nd in a ll defiance to a ny change .
T h e C ong r es s of the Unite d St a t es is n ow confr onte d wit h a
grave de cis ion. Sha ll you pass a pub lic accommodati on bill tha t
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�forces this is s u e? Or, shall you creat e a nothe r round of dispute s
over segr e ga tion b y re fusing to pa s s su ch l egislation?
Surely, the Cong r e ss r e ali ze s that after having fail e d to take
any definite action on thi s sub j e ct in the last ten years, to fail to
pass this bill would amount to an endors e m e nt of private busine ss
setting up an e ntire ly ne,v status of discrimination throughout the
nation. Citie s like Atla nta might slip backwards. Hotels and
restaurants that h ave alre ady take n this is s u e upon the ms e lves
and opened the ir: doors might find it convenie nt to go back to the
old status. F a ilure b y Cong r e ss to take definite action at this
time is by infe r e nce an e ndors e m e nt of the right of private business
to practice ra c ial discrimina tion and, in my opinion, would start
the same old round of squabbles and demonstrations that we have
had in the past.
· Gentleme n, if I had y our proble m armed with the local e x perience I hav e had, I w ould pass a public accommodation hill.
Such a bill, however, should provide an opportunity for each local
government first to m ee t this proble m and attempt to solve it on a
local, volunta ry basis, with e ach 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 e xtremely difficult to legislate such a problem.
What I am t rying to say is that the pupil placement plan,
which h a s b een w ide ly us e d in the South, provided a tim e table
approved by the F e de ral courts which helpe d in getting over trouble d
water of elimina tion of discrimina tion in public schools. It s ee m s
to me that cities working with private business instHutions could n o w
move into the sam e area and that the fed e ral government l egi s lat io n
should be bas e d on the ide a that thos e businesses have a reasona ble
time to accomp~ish su c h an act.
I think a public ac commoda t1on law now should stand only as
the last resort to a s su re that discrimination is eliminate d, but tha t
such a law would grant a r eas-o nable tim e for cities and busine ss es
to carry out this fun ctio n b e for e fe deral i ntervention .
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It might ev e n b e n e ces sary that the time factor be made more
lenie nt in favor of sma lle r c ities and communities, fo r we all know
that la rge m et r opolit a n a r e as h ave the capability of adjus ting to
c hanges more r apidly tha n s m a ller c ommunitie s .
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�Perhaps this, too, should be give n consideration in your
legislation. But the point I want to empha size 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 we ll as in the ory - and again to establish our nation as the
true champion of the free world.
Mr. Chairma.n 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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. .· '

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