Box 17, Folder 15, Document 34

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Box 17, Folder 15, Document 34

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1 732
July 2 6, 19 63
July 2 6, 19 63
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Senate Commerce Committee:
I am honored to appear before your Committee.
At the beginning I would like to make it clear that I feel qualified to speak on the subject under discussion which is the elimination.
of racial discrimination, on what I have learned from personal
experience a nd observation in my home city of Atlanta, Georgia.
As perceptive men of wide experience I feel confident that you will
a g ree with me tha t this is as serious a basic problem in the North,
East and We st as it is in the South.
It must b e 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 bette r place in which to
Elimination of racial descrimination is no far off philosophical
the ory to the more than one million people who live in and around
Atlanta. The problem is part and parcel of our daily lives. Its
solution must be studied and wo rke d out on our homefront.
As the mayor of the Southeast ' s large st city, I can say to you
out of first hand experi e nce and first hand knowl edge that nowhere
does the p roblem of e liminating 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 bu ck.
From this viewpoint, I speak of the proble m as having b een
brought into sharp focus by decis ions 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 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 1 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 1 s.
During the past two and a half years, Atlanta has taken the
following major steps to eliminate racial discrimination :
�1. In September, 1961, we 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 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, 196 3 the city employed Negro firemen.
ago employed Negro policemen .
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. A l s o in June, 1963, 18 hote ls and motels, representing the
l e a ding pla ce s 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
res t a u r ants , of their own volition, abolished segregation in their
faci lities.
You can re adily see that Atlanta's steps have been taken in
s ome instance s in compliance with cou r t decisions, and in other
inst a n ces t he st e ps have been voluntary prior to any court action.
In each i nst a n ce the action has resulted in white citizens relinqu i shin g s pe cial p r iv ileges which they had enjoyed under the
practices of raci a l discri mination. E a c h action also has r esulted
i n the Negro c itize n being give n rights which all others previously
had enjoyed and whi ch he has been denied.
As I mentioned at the be ginni ng, Atlanta has a chieved only
�a measure of success. I think it would assist you in understanding
this if I explained how limited so fa r has been this transition from
the old segregate d 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 participation b y 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 fo r e liminating discrimination in hotels as yet takes
care only of conv e ntion de legates. Although prominent Negroes
have been accepte 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 r e membere d that the right to use a facility
does not mean that it will b e used or m i sused by any group, especially the group s in the lowe r e conomic status.
The statements I h ave givep you cover the actual progress
made by Atlanta toward total elimination of discrimination.
Now I w ou ld like to submit m y personal reasons why I think
Atlanta has r e s olve d s ome of t he se problems while in other cities,
s olutions hav e s ee med i mpossib l e and st r ife and conflict have
res ulted .
As a n illust ration, I would like to desc ribe a rece nt visit of
an official de legation fr om a gre a t Easte rn city which has a Negro
population of over 60 0 , 000 c onsisting of in e x cess of 20% of its
whole population .
The m emb e r s of thi s de l egation at first simply did not under stand and would hardly b e liev e t hat t he busin e ss , civic and political
intere sts of A tla nta h a d inte ntly c on cerne d themselves with the
Ne g r o population. I s t ill do not be lieve tha t they are convinced
t hat a ll of our c iv i c bodies b acke d by the publi c interest and sup p orte d by the City Governme nt have da ily conce rne d thems e lves
w ith an effort to solve our gravest proble m -- whic h i s re la tions
b etween our races . Gentlemen, Atlanta has n ot s wept t his
�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 center of Negro higher education.
There are six great Negro universities and colleges located inside
our city limits. Because of this, a g reat number of inte lligent,
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 insura n ce companie s - chain drug store s - real e state de ale rs.
In fa ct, they have deve lope d busine ss organizations, I b e lieve, 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
g ood r aci a l re lations in ou r city. W e have n e ws m e dia , both white
a n d Negro, whose leaders str ong ly b e liev e a nd put i nto p ractice t he
great truth that responsibility of the press (and by this I mean radio
and t e levision as well as the written press) is inseparable from
freedom of the press .
T h e leade rship of our w r itten, s poken and t e levi se d news
m e dia join wit h the business a nd gov ernment leaders hip, both white
and Ne g r o, in working to solve our p r oblems .
We are f o rtun a t e t hat we hav e one of the wor l d famous editorial
spokesmen for reas on a n d moderation on one of our white newspape r s,
a long with othe r e dito r s and many r e porte rs who stre ss significance
rather tha n s e nsation in the reporting and interp ret a tion of wha t
happens in our cit y.
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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 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
b est 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 say that it i s all right for the Ne g ro citizen
to go into the bank of Main stre et to deposit his earnings or borrow
money, then to go the de partment store t o 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 conve nience, to insist that the Negro's
citizenship be changed and that, as a second class citizen, he is
to be. refused s e rvice? I submit that it is not right to allow an
American's citi zenship to be changed merely as a matter of convenience.
If the Cong r e ss should fa il to cla rify the issue at the pre s e nt
time, then by inference it would be saying that you could begin dis crimination under the guise of private business. I do not believe
that this is what the Supreme Cour t has inte nded with its decisions.
I do not believe t hat this is the intent of Congress or the people of
this country .
I not a la wyer, Se nators . I am not sure I clearly under stand all of the t e stimony inv o lvi n g various a m e ndments to the
Constitution a nd the Commerce cla u se which has been given to this
Committee . I h a v e a fu ndament a l res pect for the Constitution of
the Unite d Sta t es. Under t h is C ons tituti on we h av e a lways b een
able to do what is b e st fo r a ll of the pe ople of this country. I b eg
of you not to l e t t his issue of discrim ination .drown in legalistic
waters. I am firm ly convinced that the Supreme Court ins i s t s
tha t the s ame fundam e n t al rights must b e held b y every American
c itizen .
Atlanta is a case that proves that the proble m of discrimination
can be solved to s ome ext e nt . . . and I u se this "some ext ent"
cautiously . . . as we certainly have n ot solved all of the problems;
but we have met them in a number of areas. This can b e done locally ,
volunt arily, and by private busine ss itself!
On t he other hand, there are hundreds of communities and
cit ies, certainly throughout the nation that have n ot ever addressed
themse lves to the issue . Whereas, others have flagrantly ignored
t he demand, a nd today, stand in a ll defiance to any change.
The Congre ss of the Unit e d St a t es i s now confronte d with a
grave decision. Sha ll you pass a public accommodation b ill 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 endorsement of the right of private business
to practice racial discrimination and, in my opinion, would start
the same old round of squabbles and demonstrations that we 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
government first to meet this problem and attempt to solve it on a
local, voluntary basis, with each business making its own decis ion .
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 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 c ourts which h elped in getting over troubled
water of elimination of discrimination in public schools. It seems
to me that cities working with private business institutions could now
move into the same area and that the federal government l egislat ion
should be based on the idea that those businesses have a reasonable
time to accomplish such an act.
I think a public accommodation law now should stand only as
the last resort to assure that discrimination is eliminated, but that
such a law would grant a reasonable time for cities and businesses
to carry out this function before federal intervention.
It might even be necessary that the time factor be made more
l enient in favor of smaller cities and communities, for we all know
that large metropolitan areas have the capability of adjusting to
changes more r apidly 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'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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