Box 19, Folder 6, Document 29

http://allenarchive.iac.gatech.edu/originals/ahc_CAR_015_019_006_029.pdf

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Box 19, Folder 6, Document 29

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"Business is business. I work with white men every day and I get along. But when they start fooling around with
my brothers, that's it. I don't care anymore. Long as his skin's the same as mine, he's my brother."
-Atlanta Journal, Sept . 7, 1966
Photo: Julius L este r
PERSPECTIVE on THE ATLANTA REBELLION
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
50¢
Text by Julius Lester
Photos by Ru fus Hinton
Juliu s Leste r
Jimmy Lytle
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-Viole nt Coordinating Committee a nd then closed their
investigation. By attacking SNCC the y joine d the increasi ng
number of government officials and newspapers who claim that
the rebellions of this past summer have not been acts against
a s ys tem th at offers a Ii vi ng dea th to black me n, but h ave been
only th e result of agitation by Communists and / or bl ack nationa list groups . No evi de nce has ever been put forward to substantiate th ese cl a ims. Yet th ey a re repeated over a nd over
aga in in th e face of much evide nce to the contrary. The refusal
to accept the meaning of the rebellion s of this past summer will
only result in more disturb a nces of the same nature.


We u se t he word "r ebe lli on" in stead of riot , b eca u se it c0 nveys a


tru e r mea ning of what has been occurring. In no ne of the in 'c idents of
the summer of '66 did black people go int o white ne ighbor h oods . Their
first target was always tbe po li ce . Their second has been wh it e - owned
busi nesses in th e g he tt o . These targets h ave bee n chosen deliberately,
be ca us e they a re the most visib le s igns of oppress ion in the ghetto .
These reb e llions h ave be en co nsci o us political ac t s, just as the s it-in s
and picket lin es were co ns cio us political acts. Demonstrations in the
g h etto do not te nd to co mply with the accep t able mea ns of protest. To
use the word riot gives rise to images of black men running amok,
w ithout ca use or reason. This im age does the black man no h arm, because he knows why he's throwing bricks at policemen. It does do a
disservice to whit es, though, wh o are n ot given the opportuni ty to
understand.
�No grievances
justify
mob action and
insurrection."
-Congressman
Charles Weltner,
Sept. 7, 1966
II.
Atlanta had many warnings of something to come. In June
1966 there were street demonstrations in Mechanicsville, a
black ghetto that is adjacent to Summerhill, the rebellion area.
These demonstrations were organized by local residents to
protest inadequate facilities . The police managed to quiet th e
residents and some temporary measures we re taken to provide
adequate playground facilities. In August there were two consecutive nights of incidents outside the Palladium, a black
club, in southwest Atlanta, when black people felt that the
police were unjustly arresting patrons of the club . In both
instances the y tried to free the arrested pad:ies and run the
police from the area . In one instance they succeeded.
The most direct warning to the city of Atlanta came in a
report presented to the mayor in February, 1966. This report
was prepared by the Community Council of the Atlanta Area,
Inc. , under a Federal grant from the Urban Renewal Administration of the Department of Housing and Urban Redevelopment.
It was called "Social Blight and its Causes (with special
reference to the blighted areas surrounding Atlanta Stadium.)"
This area, in part , is Summerhill-the area where the rebellion
occurred , the rebellion for which the Mayor can find no other
cause than Stokely Carmichal and SNCC.
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�III.
Atlanta, Georgia is hailed by many as the most progressive
city in the South. The New York Times of September 7, 1966
says:
The city has been Widely praised as a model
for the South in its peaceful acceptance of
school desegregation , and its two daily newspapers-The Constitution and The Journalare among the most liberal in the region in
racial matters.
Perhaps Atlanta is the most progressive city in the South beca use 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 festiva l , a major league baseball team, a professional football team,
a nd 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 bee n exercised in most cities, including Atlanta,
urban ren ewal is nothing more than evicting poor black people
from their homes , razing the area and "renewing" it with high
cost apartm ents, hotels, motels , and e xpressways. In Atlanta
the Ma rriot Hotel , a delu xe accommodation for those who can
a ffo rd to be delu xely a ccommodated , sta nds in the heart of what
use d to be a bla ck slum a rea, Buttermilk Bottom.
Bl ack s lums a re never a nything to brag about. .. shacks,
rats, roa che s, ga rbage th at spills out of the cans and into the
stre ets beca use the Sa nitation Departme nt seems to collect
more on a whim than a sche dule. The shacks and apartments
in the s lums that bl ack people dignify b y calling home are
usually rented fr om la ndlord s who pocke t the rent and refuse to
make re pa irs . If he is e ve r c a rrie d to court for refusing to maintain his ·property acco rding to the building and health codes, the
resulta nt fine i s s o low a s to enc ourage him to continue to do
nothing. Eve ntua ll y, these "homes" a re conde mned a s unfit;
the city pays the slumlord a health y sum for the prope rty (which
he has inte n tiona lly a llo wed to de te riora te so it would be condemned a nd bou ght by th e city) a nd th e residents , poor , black
powerless, are told they mu st move . The are a is t o be "re newed".
T his " re newa l " is ha iled almost as loudl y a s would be an
annou ncement tha t J es us was goin g to prea ch a t First Baptist
on the third Sunday. T he newspa pe rs procl a im the new s far and
wide . The Chamber of Comm e rce pre pa res a new publicity brochure. T he mayor is inte rv iewed on his wa y to th e ba nk with his
latest haul of graft fr om this "boo n to th e c ity . " The victims
of this "boon", blac k people, rece ive the he a rtfelt s ympath y
of city offic ials a nd are kno wn throughout hi s tor y a s the "ine vitable victims of progress." (Afte r a ll , didn 't Jesus Himse lf l ay
the cornerstone for capitalis m whe n he sa id , 'A nd the poor ye
shall always have with yo u .'?) But a few ca n 't be a llowed to
hold back what is good for a ll , we are told , s o th e y pa ck up
their clothes and belongings a nd move in to a n a lready overcrowded part of the city . T his is the urba n re newa l blue print
from city to city across America . Atlanta has fo llowed it c onscientiously .
"I don't care
how many buildings
they put up.
They ain't for us ."
-Resident of street in ph oto to author .
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IV .
"I'm running this city,,,
There're a lot of people in it who're not very good,
but I'm running it,"
- Mayor Ivan All en, At lanta Const itu tion , Sept. 7, 1%6
There was much e xc itement in the halls of the Chamber of
Commerce when ta lk began abo ut the possibility of Atlanta
acquiring a major l eague bas eball team . You can't be a big
le ague city without a ball team a nd Atlanta wanted to be "big
lea gue " . An 18-million-dollar s tadium was built s o that Atlant a
could be . The bl a ck victim s of thi s s te p toward progress were
forced to move without any hous ing being provided for that which
was to be dest royed. L ike refugees from the conflagration of a
wa r the y didn' t understand , they moved into Sum merhill and
Mechanics ville .
Prior to the e rection of this hous e of progress, Summerhill
was not considere d a slum, although the trend had begun due to
the changing e mployment opport unities and the aging of the
hous e s. According to the Community Council's report:
This deterioration h as been accentuated
through clearance by reduci ng the available lowincome 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 remark s to our inte rviewers by
long-term re sidents concerned how rapidly the
areas nearest the s tadium have changed since
the clearance . The doubling up and increased
pressure for housing caused "a good many of the
s table people to move away . " During the four
months that we have been talking with people in
the area closes t to the s tadium , the interviewers
ha ve observed an extremely high turnover among
renters and a loss of homeowners ... Many of the
area s surrounding clearance s eem to become
little mo re than temporary qua rters for people
who are constantly forced to move. Thus , clearance and relocation , without careful cons ideration of the effect on neighborhoods , has a
sn owballing effect in the destru ction of the
surrounding areas.
That is Summerhill, expendable , as black people have always
been.
�f
V.
To many, including Mayor Ivan All en and Mr. Ralph Mc Gill
of the Atla nta .Constitution, it is possible fo r someone to ente r
a n area with a soundtruck, shout "Black Power!" several times
a nd people will knock each other ove r getting out to the s t reets
with bric ks a nd bottles i n the ir ha nds . If the Mayor a nd the press
a re t o be believed , this i s actua lly wha t happened. A re bellion ,
howe ver, cann ot be induced by some witch docto r na med Stokely
from the s tone-age SNICK tribe. Rebellions ha ppen beca use
people know no other way in which to ma ke themse lve s heard.
T hose who de mons t rate with Molotov c ocktails a re not people
who can go to c ity pl annin g c ommissi on hearings a nd hear thems e lve s discus sed as an it em in the budge t. A re be llion i s the
la nguage of those who must ta lk t o the deaf.
The report by t he C ommunity Council was prepa red in language that the Mayor could hear a nd understand.
In the a rea a round the stadium 8 to 12% of the
families have annual inc omes of less · tha n $1 ,000
Another 15-25% have incomes betwee n $1,000
a nd $2,000. Educ ation s h ows a simil a r pa tte rn:
5-10% of the adults ha ve ne ver been in school.
Another 20-30% have ha d le ss tha n 5 yea rs of
educa tion. About one-fourth to one-third of the
children live with only one pa re nt. The infant
mo rta lity rate is betwee n 40 a nd 50 de a ths pe r
1,000 live births, twice a s high as middle cla ss
areas . The ir streets a re unpaved ; the school s
are muc h more crowde d; the e nforcement of sanit ation , ho us ing and other s ta nda rds is muc h less
stringent; in man y nei ghborhood s s treet li ghts
are virtually no n-existe nt. . . Cou pled with t he
absence of services have been many unfu lfille d
promises to improve condit ions. Bond iss ue s
have been sold on the promises of improved
school s o r s tre ets or pa rks, but the s e servi ces
h a ve not mate rialized. P ublic officia ls have
stated the ir desires to improve this or that si t uation , but conditions re main e s sentially unchanged. It s hould be no s urprise that mos t
people simply do not believe the be nign express ions of good intent made by local officials.
our summers of riots are caused
by America' s winters of delays."
11 •• •
- Martin L uth er Ki ng, Jr . At lanta Journal, Sept. 10, 1966
"
�VI.
"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 be dealt with
by replenishing the police department's supply of tear gas."
-The Counci l on Human Relations of Greater Atlanta, Inc .
Atlanta Constitution, September 9, 1966
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 borro wed 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 s on and
this other police was about to get into it out there . He wa s
saying, ' I know you didn 't have to shoot him. You didn't have to
cause this. You could ha ve caught him cause he wasn't running
that fast.' And some of the people told me that when the policeman shot him once , he said, 'Lord , let me make it back to the
house. Let me make it back t9 the house. ' I told the policeman
'You didn 't have to do an ything except take a long step to catch
him , but you didn't even try·. You were too busy s hooting at him'.'
Thus, it began. How many other times had wh ite 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 a 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.
�"You go home and eat a big steak with mushrooms,
while we has to go home and eat sardines.
Let us go home with you."
-Atl anta Constitution, Sept. 12, 1%6
VII. ,
No matter how many times the city of Atlanta and the press
scream that SNCC was respon s ible for the rebe llion, the black
people of Atlanta know that SNCC did not des troy h o~es for
hot els , mote l s , expressways and a ball s tadium . The y know that
SNCC did not fo rce the se people to move into Summerhill , Mechanicsville and other a l ready crowded are as of the city. They
know tha t SNCC does not set the exorbitant prices bl ack pe ople
are forced to pay for groceries in the ghetto s tores o wned by
whites . Yet , Ivan Allen s ays SNCC is respons ible for the rebe llions. Thos e black men he has bought off with tea a nd c ookies
can say, a s did the Rev. Otis Smith, "Our main c oncern i s
Stokely Ca rmichal. Whethe r or not we have a riot is up to him . " .
The Re v . William Holmes Borde rs can s a y, " We 've got to s top
him before he s tops us. " Dr. 0. W. Davis can s ay , "Mr. Ca rmichal is an albatross around our necks.' '
Like Shadrach, Mesha ch and Abednego, Ivan Allen a nd the
city of Atlanta a re in a fiery furnace , but they do not feel the
heat. It is not, howe ver, the grace of God that keeps t hem from
feelin g the flame s. It is their own inability or unwill ingne ss to
respond to des pera tion a nd des pair. Rather than recognize this ,
which would be no sha me, the y launch a ve ndetta against SNCC .
Whether SNCC lives or dies i s not important, becau s e the
black c ommunity will continue to fi ght unti l a s ociety i s c reated
in which the black ma n will be able to fulfi ll him s elf. In that
society there will be no place for the Ivan All ens , who think a
city' s image and progre ss can be s eparated from the peop le
of that city .
P h oto : Jimmy Lytle
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