Box 19, Folder 6, Document 29

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“Business is business. | work with white men every day and | get along. But when they start fooling around with
my brothers, that’s it. | don’t care anymore. Long as his skin’s the same as mine, he’s my brother.”

—Atlanta Journal, Sept. 7, 1966

Photo: Julius Lester


Copyright 1967
Aframerican News Service
360 Nelson Street, SW
Atlanta, Georgia 30313

Published by

The Movement Press

449 14th Street

San Francisco, California 94103

Additional copies available
from either address


Text by Julius Lester

Photos by Rufus Hinton
Julius Lester
Jimmy Lytle

a |

In seeking to determine the cause of the recent rebellions*
in Atlanta, Georgia, the mayor, city officials and the press
looked no further than to the presence in the city of the Student
Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and then closed their
investigation. By attacking SNCC they joined the increasing
number of government officials and newspapers who claim that
the rebellions of this past summer have not been acts against
a system that offers a living death to black men, but have been
only the result of agitation by Communists and/or black nation-
alist groups. No evidence has ever been put forward to sub-
stantiate these claims. Yet they are repeated over and over
again in the face of much evidence to the contrary. The refusal
to accept the meaning of the rebellions of this past summer will
only result in more disturbances of the same nature.

*We use the word ‘‘rebellion’’ instead of riot, because it conveys a
truer meaning of what has been occurring. In none of the incidents of
the summer of ’66 did black people go into white neighborhoods. Their
first target was always the police. Their second has been white-owned
businesses in the ghetto. These targets have been chosen deliberately,
because they are the most visible signs of oppression in the ghetto.
These rebellions have been conscious political acts, just as the sit-ins
and picket lines were conscious political acts. Demonstrations in the
ghetto do not tend to comply with the acceptable means of protest. To
use the word riot gives rise to images of black men running amok,
without cause or reason. This image does the black man no harm, be-
cause he knows why he’s throwing bricks at policemen. It does doa
disservice to whites, though, who are not given the opportunity to


Atlanta, Georgia is hailed by many as the most progressive
city in the South. The New York Times of September 7, 1966

The city has been widely praised as a model

for the South in its peaceful acceptance of

school desegregation, and its two daily news-

papers—The Constitution and The Journal—

are among the most liberal in the region in

racial matters.
Perhaps Atlanta is the most progressive city in the South be-
cause it, more than any other Southern city, resembles the
cities of the North. It has its industry, its imposing skyline,
an air of affluence, a symphony orchestra, an annual arts festi-
val, a major league baseball team, a professional football team,
and air pollution. If these credentials are not enough to qualify
Atlanta as a metropolis of the sixties, it also has urban renewal.

As it has been exercised in most cities, including Atlanta,
urban renewal is nothing more than evicting poor black people
from their homes, razing the area and ‘‘renewing’’ it with high
cost apartments, hotels, motels, and expressways. In Atlanta
the Marriot Hotel, a deluxe accommodation for those who can
afford to be deluxely accommodated, stands in the heart of what
used to be a black slum area, Buttermilk Bottom.

Black slums are never anything to brag about...shacks,
rats, roaches, garbage that spills out of the cans and into the
streets because the Sanitation Department seems to collect
more on a whim than a schedule. The shacks and apartments
in the slums that black people dignify by calling home are
usually rented from landlords who pocket the rent and refuse to
make repairs. If he is ever carried to court for refusing to main-
tain his property according to the building and health codes, the
resultant fine is so low as to encourage him to continue to do
nothing. Eventually, these ‘“‘homes’’ are condemned as unfit;
the city pays the slumlord a healthy sum for the property (which
he has intentionally allowed to deteriorate so it would be con-
demned and bought by the city) and the residents, poor, black
powerless, are told they must move. The area is to be ‘‘renewed’’,

This ‘‘renewal’’ is hailed almost as loudly as would be an
announcement that Jesus was going to preach at First Baptist
on the third Sunday. The newspapers proclaim the news far and
wide. The Chamber of Commerce prepares a new publicity bro-
chure. The mayor is interviewed on his way to the bank with his
latest haul of graft from this ‘‘boon to the city.’’ The victims
of this “‘boon’’, black people, receive the heartfelt sympathy
of city officials and are known throughout history as the ‘‘inevi-
table victims of progress.’’ (After all, didn’t Jesus Himself lay
the cornerstone for capitalism when he said, ‘And the poor ye
shall always have with you.’?) But a few can’t be allowed to
hold back what is good for all, we are told, so they pack up
their clothes and belongings and move into an already over-
crowded part of the city. This is the urban renewal blueprint
from city to city across America. Atlanta has followed it con-

"{ don’t care

how many buildings
they put up.

They ain’t for us.”

—Resident of street in photo to author.

Photo: Julius Lester

“Pm running this city...
There’re a lot of people in it who’re not very good,
but I’m running it.”

—Mayor Ivan Allen, Atlanta Constitution, Sept. 7, 1966

Photo: Julius Lester


There was much excitement in the halls of the Chamber of
Commerce when talk began about the possibility of Atlanta
acquiring a major league baseball team. You can’t be a big
league city without a ball team and Atlanta wanted to be “‘big
league’’. An 18-million-dollar stadium was built so that Atlanta
could be. The black victims of this step toward progress were
forced to move without any housing being provided for that which
was to be destroyed. Like refugees from the conflagration of a
war they didn’t understand, they moved into Summerhill and

Prior to the erection of this house of progress, Summerhill
was not considered a slum, although the trend had begun due to
the changing employment opportunities and the aging of the
houses. According to the Community Council’s report:

This deterioration has been accentuated
through clearance by reducing the available low-
income housing-units. This increased demand for
housing has resulted in a further division of old
houses into several apartments and in a more
widespread doubling up of families. One of the
most common remarks to our interviewers by
long-term residents concerned how rapidly the
areas nearest the stadium have changed since
the clearance. The doubling up and increased
pressure for housing caused ‘‘a good many of the
stable people to move away.’’ During the four
months that we have been talking with people in
the area closest to the stadium, the interviewers
have observed an extremely high turnover among
renters and a loss of homeowners...Many of the
areas surrounding clearance seem to become
little more than temporary quarters for people
who are constantly forced to move. Thus, clear-
ance and relocation, without careful considera-
tion of the effect on neighborhoods, has a
snowballing effect in the destruction of the
surrounding areas.

That is Summerhill, expendable, as black people have always


To many, including Mayor Ivan Allen and Mr. Ralph McGill
of the Atlanta Constitution, it is possible for someone to enter
an area with a soundtruck, shout ‘‘Black Power!’’ several times
and people will knock each other over getting out to the streets
with bricks and bottles in their hands. If the Mayor and the press
are to be believed, this is actually what happened. A rebellion,
however, cannot be induced by some witch doctor named Stokely
from the stone-age SNICK tribe. Rebellions happen because

people know no other way in which to make themselves heard.

Those who demonstrate with Molotov cocktails are not people
who can go to city planning commission hearings and hear them-
selves discussed as an item in the budget. A rebellion is the
language of those who must talk to the deaf.
The report by the Community Council was prepared in lan-
guage that the Mayor could hear and understand.
In the area around the stadium 8 to 12% of the
families have annual incomes of less than $1,000
Another 15-25% have incomes between $1,000
and $2,000. Education shows a similar pattern:
5-10% of the adults have never been in school.
Another 20—30% have had less than 5 years of
education. About one-fourth to one-third of the
children live with only one parent. The infant
mortality rate is between 40 and 50 deaths per
1,000 live births, twice as high as middle class
areas. Their streets are unpaved; the schools
are much more crowded; the enforcement of sani-
tation, housing and other standards is much less
stringent; in many neighborhoods street lights
are virtually non-existent...Coupled with the
absence of services have been many unfulfilled
promises to improve conditions. Bond issues
have been sold on the promises of improved
schools or streets or parks, but these services
have not materialized. Public officials have
stated their desires to improve this or that situa-
tion, but conditions remain essentially un-
changed. It should be no surprise that most
people simply do not believe the benign expres-
sions of good intent made by local officials.





"... Our summers of riots are caused
by America’s winters of delays.”
—Martin Luther King, Jr. Atlanta Journal, Sept. 10, 1966





“The Atlanta Community—Negro and white—will be making a
sad mistake if it writes off Tuesday’s disturbances in the
South Side as a plot of outside agitators, to he dealt with

by replenishing the police department’s supply of tear gas.”
—The Council on Human Relations of Greater Atlanta, Inc.
Atlanta Constitution, September 9, 1966

Photo: Rufus Hinton


The summer was almost over and Atlanta was about to
relax, because “‘niggers ain’t never been known to riot in the
winter.’? The day after Labor Day a white policeman shot a
black man suspected of auto theft. (Given a chance he could
have proven he had borrowed the car he was driving.) “‘The
ambulance come to take him off and he lay down there,’”’ said
Mrs. Marjorie Prather, mother of the victim. ““My other son and
this other police was about to get into it out there. He was
saying, ‘I know you didn’t have to shoot him. You didn’t have to
cause this. You could have caught him cause he wasn’t running
that fast.’ And some of the people told me that when the police-
man shot him once, he said, ‘Lord, let me make it back to the
house. Let me make it back to the house.’ I told the policeman
‘Vou didn’t have to do anything except take a long step to catch
him, but you didn’t even try. You were too busy shooting at him?’

Thus, it began. How many other times had white policemen
shot black men? How many other times had white policemen
beaten black men and taken them off to jail? How many other
times? But this time was the one time too many. In Cleveland
it was not being able to get e glass of water in a bar run by a
white man. In Watts it was the simple arrest of two men on a
traffic violation. It’s always something that has happened an
infinite number of times before, but on one occasion it becomes
the proverbial straw breaking the camel’s back.

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