Box 16, Folder 36, Document 14

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Box 16, Folder 36, Document 14

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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 honore d to appear before your Committee.
At the beginning I would like to make it clear that I feel qualified to spe a k on the subject under discussion which is the elimination
of racial discrimina tion, on what I have learned from personal
e xperie n ce a nd obs e rva tion 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 b e defined as an all-American problem, which requires
an all-Ame rica n _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 make s the popula tion 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 orde r 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 proble m is pa rt and parcel of our daily lives. Its
solution mus t b e s tudie d and worked out on our homefront.
A s the mayo r of the Southeast' s la r ge st city, I can say to you
out of first ha nd exp e ri~nce and first hand knowledge that nowhere
doe s the p r oble m of e liminating discrimination between the races
st r ike s_o close l y home as it doe s to the local elected public officia l.
He is the m a:n who ca nnot pa s s the bu ck .
From t his v iewpoint, I s peak o f the p r oblem as having b een
b r ought into sharp focus b y de cisions 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 l eft on the doorste ps 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 loqked facts in the face
and accepte d 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 o( good will and good sense representing both races.
In attacking the specific problems, we accepted the basic
truth tha t 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 uphe ld
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 h ave we retaine d or e nhanced the privileges of segrega tion.
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
a:r:id public transportatio'ii. We began to become somewhat conditioned for more extensive and definitive action, which has be en
taking place in the ·1960 1s.
During the past two and a h a lf years, Atlant a has taken the
following major steps to eliminate racial discrimination:
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1. In September, 1961, w e 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 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 fo1: whites and Ne groes.
6: In March, 1963 the city employed Negro firemen.
ago employed Negro policemen.
It long
7. In May of 1963 the Atlanta R e 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, 19 63, the city government opened all municipal
swimming pools on a desegregated basis. This was voluntary action
to comply w ith 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
faciliti e s.
You can readily see that Atlanta's steps have been taken in
some instances in complia·nce with court decisions, and in other
instan ce s the ste ps hav.e been voluntary prior to any court action.
In each instan ce the act.ion has r e sulte d in white citize ns relinquishing spe cial p r ivile ges which they had enjoyed under the
practice s of racial discrimina tion. E a ch action also has resulted
in the Ne gro· citize n b e ing give n rights which all others previously
had enjoye d and whi c h h e ha s b e en deni e d .
As I me ntione d at the b eginning , Atlanta h a s achieve d only
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�a measure of success. I think it would assist you in understanding
this if I e xplained how limited so far has b ee n this transition from
the old segregated society of generations past, and also how limited
so far has been the partic ipation of the Negro citizens.
Significant as is the voluntary elimination of discrimination in
our leading restaurants, it affects so far oniy a small percentage of
·- - ·- -the hun d reds- of eat1ng pla ces in-our city.
And partic".i.pation 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 bee·n 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 emembe red 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 r e solved some of these problems while in other cities,
solutions have seemed impossible and strife and conflict have
As an illustration, I would like to describe a recent visit of
an official delegation 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 members of this delegation at first simply did not understand and would hard ly believe that the business, civic and political
interests of Atlanta had intently concerned themse lves with the
Negro population. I still do not believe that they are convinced
that all of our civic bodies b acked b y the public interest and supported by the City Governm ent have daily concerned themse lves
with an effort to solve ~ur grave st problem - - which is re lations
betwee·n our races. Gentlemen, Atlanta has not swept this
�question under the : rug a t a ny point. Step by step - sometimes
under Court orde r - some times volunta r ily moving ahe ad of
pressure s - some time s a d r oitly - and m a ny time s clumsily - we
have tried to ·f ind a solution to each spe cific 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 whi ch too often merely b e comes a buria l 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 hote l own e rs to work with the top leadership . . .
or c e rta in resta ura nt owne rs who of the ir own volition dealt with
top Ne gro leade rship. 'By d ev e loping the lfue s of communica tion
and respectability, we -hav e b e en able to reach amicable solutions.
Atla nta is the world's cente r of Negro highe r education.
There are six great Ne g ro univers itie s a nd college s located inside
our city limits. Beca us e of this, a gre a t numb e r of inte lligent,
well- e du cat e d N egro citi zen s h a v e chosen to r emain in our c it y .
As a result of their education, they have had the ability to develop
a prospe rous N egro business community. In Atlanta it consists of
financia l institutions like banks - building and loan associations life insurance compa nies - cha i n dr u g store s - real e state d eal e r s .
In fa ct, the y have deve lope d busine s s organi zations, I belie v e , in
almo s t eve r y l i n e of acknowle dge d Am e r i can business . There are
also many Ne g ro professional men.
Then the r e is a nothe r powe rful fa ctor working i n the b e ha lf of
good raci a l r e lati ons in ou r city. W e ha ve n e ws m e dia , both white
and Negro, whose l eaders strong ly b e liev e and put into p ractice the
great t r uth tha t resp on s ibility of the ·p ress (a nd b y this I m ean radio
and t e levision as well as the w ritte n pre ss) is inseparable from
fre e dom of the p r e s s.
The leade r s hi p of our w r itten, s poke n a nd t e levise d n ews
i:nedia j oin with t he b u siness and government l eadership, both white
and Negro, in w o rking 't o solve our p r ob lems .
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We are fo rtuna t e t ha t we hav e one of the w o r ld fam ous e ditorial
s pokesrµen f o r reas on a n d m o deration on one of our whit e newspapers,
along with other editors and many reporters who stress significance
rather than sensation in the reporting and inte rpreta tion of wha t
happe ns. 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 qther 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 N;gro leadership in Atlanta is responsible and
constructive. I am sure that our Negro leadership is as desirous of
obtaining additional civic antj economic and personal rights as is any
Americari 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 customer!3.
Here again we get .into the area of what is right and what is
best for the people of thi~ 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, boycot.t s, picketing?
�Are we going to s ay that it is all right for the Negro citizen
to go into the b a nk of Main street to de posit his earnings or borrow
money, then to go the de partment store to buy what he needs, to go
to the supermarket to purchase food for his family, and so on along
Main street uritil he come s to a resta ura nt 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 ga l 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 m e rely 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 testimony involving v a rious amendments to the
Constitution and the Comme rce claus e which has be en given to this
Committe e. I have a fund a mental r e spe ct for the Constitution of
the Unite d Sta t e s. Unde r this Cons titution we have always be en
able to do what is best 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 firmly conv ince d that the Supreme Court insists
that the same fund a m e nta l rig ht s mu st b e he ld by eve ry Am e rican
citize n.
Atlanta is a case tha t prove s that the problem of discriminatioh
can be solved to some extent . . . and I use this "some e xtent"
cautiously . . . as we ce rtainly have not solved all of the proble ms;
but we have m e t them in a numbe r of a rea s . This can b e done fo cally,
volunta rily, a nd b y p riva t e· busine ss its e lf!
On the othe r hand, _:the r e are hundre ds of communities. and
cities, certainly throughout the nation that have not eve r addresse d
the m s elve s to the i s sue . Whe r e as, others have flagra ntly ignore d
the de mand, ·a nd t oday, s t a nd in a ll de fia nce to a ny change.
The . Congress of the Unite d Sta t e s is now confront e d with a
g rav e de cis ion. Sha ll y ou pass a public accommoda tion bill that
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�forces this issue ? . Or, sha ll you cre ate a nother round of disputes
over segre gation by refusing to pas s such l e gislation?
Surely, the Congre ss realizes that after having failed to take
any definite action on this subject in the last ten years, to fail to
pass this bill w ould amount to an endors e ment of private business
setting up an entirely ne w status of discrimination throughout the
nation. Cities like Atlanta might slip backwards. Hotels and
restaurants that h av e a lready t a k e n this issue upon thems e lves
and opened the ir: doors might find it convenient to go back to the
old status. Failure by Congress to take definite action at this
time is by infere nce an endorsement of the right of private business
to practice racial discrimination and, in m"y 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 ·1 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 this proble m and attempt to solve it on a
local, voluntary ba sis, with each bus ine ss making its own decisi on.
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 legislate such a proble m.
Wha t I am trying to s a y i s tha t the pupil place m e nt pla n,
which has been widely used in the South, provided a time table
approved by the Federal cour ts which helped in getting ove r troubled
water of elimina tion of discrimination in public schools. It se e ms
to me that citie s working w it h priva t e busine ss institutions could n ow
move into the s a m e area a nd tha t the fe de r a l g ove rnment l egi s l ation
should b e base d on th.e idea tha t those bus ine s ses h a v e a reas onable
time to accomplish such an act.
I think a publi c ac c omm oda tion law now should sta nd on ly as
the last r e sor t to a ssure that dis c r i m ination is e limina t e d, but that
s u ch a l aw w ould grant a r eas onable t ime fo r cities a nd busin e s ses
to c arry out this funct ion b e for e fe de ral i nt ervention .
It might even b e n e cessary tha t the t ime factor b e ma de mo re
l e nie nt in favo r of smalle r cit ies. and c omm unities , fo r w e a ll know
tha t l arge metropolita n areas h ave the capabilit y of adjus t ing to
cp.anges more rapidly t h a n 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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