Box 16, Folder 36, Document 15

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Box 16, Folder 36, Document 15

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July 2 6, 19 63
July 2 6, 19 63
Mr. Cha irman and Memb e rs of the Senate Commerce Committee:
I am honore d to appe ar b e fore your Committee .
At the b eginning I w ould like to make it clear that I feel qualified to speak on the subj ect under discussion which is the elimination
of racial discrim i n a tion, on what I have learned from personal
e x perie nc e and ob s ervation in my home city of Atlanta, Georgia.
As perceptive m e n of wide exp e rience I feel confident that you will
agre e w ith me tha t thi s is as serious a basic problem in the North,
East and. W est a s it is in the South. ·
It must b e d e fined as an all-American problem, which requires
an all-Am e r i car_:i solution based on local thought, local action and
local coopera tion.
The 500, 000 p e ople who live within our city limits consist of
300, 000 w hit e citi ze ns and slightly more than 200,000 Negro citizens.
That make s t he popula tion of Atla nta 60 percent white, 40 percent
· Negro.
That 60 - 40 percentage emphasizes how essential it is for the
people o f Atla nta , on their loc a l level, to solve the problem of racial
discriminat ion in order to make Atlanta a better place in which to
Elimina t i on of racia l descrimination is no far off philosophical
theory to the more tha n one million people who live in and around
Atlanta. The p rob l em is pa rt and parcel of our daily lives. Its
solution mu s t b e s tudie d and w o r k e d out on our homefront.
As t he mayor of the Southeast's largest city, I can say to you
out of fir s t h a nd exp e ri.~ n ce and first ha nd know ledge that now here
does t he problem of e liminating discrimination betw een the races
st r i ke s o clo s e l y h ome a s it do e s to the local elected public o fficial.
He i s t he man w h o cannot pa ss t he buck.
From t hi s viewpo int , I speak of t he problem a s h a v ing b een
brought into s ha rp fo c us b y d ecision s o f the Sup re m e C ou rt of the
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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 proqlems by local cooperation between
people of good will and good sense representing both races.
In attacki~g 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 AtlaI?-ta 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 '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, 19 61, we b e gan 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, 19 62 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 foI' whites and Negroes.
6. In March, 1 9 63 the city employed Negro firemen.
ago empJ.oyed Negl'.'.o" policeme n.
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 mor~ 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 w ith court decisions, and in other
instances the steps hav.e been voluntary prior to any court action.
In each instance the act.ion has resulted in white citizens relinquishing spe cial privileges which they had enjoyed under the
practice s of racial discrimination. Each action also has resulted
in the Negro citizen b e ing given ·rights which all others previously
had enjoye d and which h e has b ee n denie d .
As I mentione d at the beginning, Atlanta has achieved only
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a measure of su c ce s s . I think it would assist you in understanding
this if I e xplaine d h ow limite d so fa r has be en this transition from
the old segregat e d so cie t y of generations past, and also how limited
so far has b e en the pa r ti cipation of the Ne g ro citizens.
Significant as is the volunt a ry elimina tion of discrimination in
our leading resta ura nts, it affects so far only a small percentage of
the hundreds of e at ing place s in our city.
And partic"ipa tion b y Ne g r oes so far has be e n very slight. For
example, one of Atla nta 's topmo st re staurants s e rved only 16 out of
Atlanta's 200,000 Neg ro citize ns during the first week of freedom
from discrimina tion.
The plan for e liminating discrimination in hotels as yet takes
care only of conve ntion dele ga t e s. Although prominent Negroes
have been acc e pte d '.3-S guests in s ev e ral Atlanta hotels, the Negro
citizens, as a whole , seldom app e ar at Atlanta hotels.
Underlying all the emotions of the situation, is the matter of
economics. It should be r e m e mb e red that the right to use a facility
does not mean tha t it will be used or misused by any group, especially the groups in the lower economic status.
The stateme nts I have giv ep 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 h a s r es olve d some of t he s e p r oble ms while in othe r citie s,
solutions have s eeme d imposs ible a nd strife and conflict hav e
result e d.
As an illustration, I would like to describe a recent visit of
an official delegation from a great Easte rn city which has a Negro
population of ov er 600, 000 cons isting of in e x cess of 20% of its
whole population .
The m emb ers of this de l egat io n at first simply did not understand and would hard ly b e lieve tha t the bus ine ss, civic and political
intere sts of Atlant a h a d int e ntly conce rne d the ms e lve s with the
Negro p opula t ion . I still do not b e lieve tha t they a r e conv in c e d
tha t a ll of ou r civic b odie s b a cked b y the public intere st a n d supported b y t he City Gove rnm e nt hav e da ily concerned thems e lve s
with an e ffort t o solve our grave st prob l em - - whi c h i s re lations
. bet we en our rac e s. Ge ntlemen, Atlant a 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 time s clumsily - we
have tried to find 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 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 involves} to work
out the solution . . . Theatre owners to work with the top Negro
leaders . . . or hotel owners to work with the top leadership . . .
or certa in restaura nt owners who of their own volition dealt with
top Negro l e ade rship. 'By developing the lines of communication
and respectability, we -have been able to reach amicable solutions.
Atlanta is the world's · cente r of Negro higher education.
There are six great Negro unive rsitie s a nd colleges located inside
our city limits. B e cause of this, a great numbe r of intellige nt,
well-educate d Ne gro citizens have chos e n to remain in our city.
As a result of their education, they have had the ability to develop
a prospe rous Ne gro business community. In Atlanta it consists of
financial institutions like banks - building and loan associations life insura n ce compa nies - chain drug stores - real e state de alers.
In fact, the y ha ve d ev e lope d bus in e s s o r ganiza tions, I belie v e , in
almost every line of acknowle dge d Ame rica n busine s s . The r e are
also many Negro professional men.
Then there is anothe r powerful factor working in the b e half of
good racial relations in our city. We ha ve news media, both white
and Negro, whose lea de rs strong ly b e lieve and put into practice the
gre at truth that responsibility of the pre ss (and by thi s I mean radio
and television as well as the written pre ss) is inseparable from
freedom of the press.
The leaders hip of our writte n, spoken and t e levise d n e w s
m e dia join with the bus iness a nd g overn ment le a dersh i p, both white
and Negr o, in w o rking 't q solve our p r oblems .
.• .
We are f ortuna t e that we ha v e one of the w orld famous edito r ia l
spokes m en fo r reas on a nd m odera.tion on one of our white n ewspapers,
a lon g with other edito rs and m a ny r e porters who s t ress s ignificance
rat h e r t ha n s e n s a t ion in the r e porting and interpre t a tion of wha t
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 th_e 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 harid, following the line of thought of the decisions
of the Federal <;;ourts 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?
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�Are we going to s a y tha t it i s all right for the Negro citizen
to go into the bank of Main stre et to deposit his earnings or borrow
money, then to go the department store to buy what he needs, to go
to the supermarket to purcha se 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 change d 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 discriminat,i on under the guise of private 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 ap:i 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 fundamental respect for the Constitution of
· the United States. Under this Constitution we have always been
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 firmly conv.i nced that the Supreme Court insists
that the same fundam e ntal rights must be held by every American
Atlanta is a case that prove s that the problem of discrimination
can be solved to some extent . . . and I use this "some extent"
cautiously . . . as we certainly have not solved all of the problems;
but we have met the m in a number of areas. This can be done locally,
voluntarily, and by private business itself!
On the othe r ha nd, the re are hundre ds of communities and
cities, certainly throughout the n ation that have not ever addressed
themselves to the issue. Whereas, others have flagrantly ignored
the demand, and toda y, sta nd in all de fiance to any change.
The , Cong r e ss of the Unite d States is now confronted with a
grave decision . Sha ll you pa ss a public ac c ommodation 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 definit,e 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 tha t 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 endorsement of the right of private business
to practice racial discrimination and, in my opinion, w ould 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, howev~r, should provide an opportunity for each local
government first to meet this problem and attempt to solve it on a
local, voluntary b asis , with each busine ss 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 legislate such a problem.
What I am t rying to say is t hat the pupil placem ent pla n,
which has been widely used in the South; provided a time table
approved by the F ederal courts which helped in getting over troubled
water of elimina tion of discrimination in public schools. It s eems
to me that citie s working with private business institutions could n ow
move into the same area and that the federa l government l egi s lation
should b e b ase d on the idea tha t those bus inesses h a v e a reasonable
time to accomplish such an act.
I think a public accommodafion law now should stand only as
the l ast resort to assure tha t discrimina tion is e liminated, but that
such a law would grant a r eas onable time for citie s and busin esses
to carry out this function_ b e for e federal intervention.
It might even b e n e cess a ry that the time factor b e made more
lenient in favor of smalle r c ities a nd communities, for w e all know
tha t large m e tropolitan areas h ave the capability of adj usting to
changes more rapidly tha 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 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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