Box 20, Folder 1, Document 131

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Box 20, Folder 1, Document 131

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'Ivan Allen
Need Accornrn dations Law

To Hold .ins, Mayor Says
As perceptive men of wide experience I feel confident that you will agree with me that this is
as serious a basic problem fu the North, East and West as it is in the South. It must be defined
as an all-American pr oblem, 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 per cent white, 40 per cent Negro. Th at 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 better place in which to live.
· Constitution of the United States.
As the mayor of the SouthUnder this Constitution we have
east's largest city, I can say
f always been able to do what is
to you out of first-hand experibest for all of the people of this
ence and first-hand knowledge
country. I beg of you not to let
that nowhere does the problem
this i s s u e of <,tiscriminatio
of eliminating discrimination
drown in legalistic waters. I am
between the races strike so
firmly convinced that the Suclosely home as it does to the
preme Court insists that the
public official. He is the man
same fundamental rights mus~
who cannot pass the buck.
be held by every American
From viewpoint, I speak
of the problem as having been
Atlanta is a case that proves
brought into sharp focus by dethat the problem of discriminacisions of the Supreme Court of
tion can be solved to some extent . . . and I use this "some
(This is a po-rtion of the
extent" cautiously, . . . as we
t ext of t he statement made t o
certainly have not solved all of
the Senate Commer ce Comthe problems ; but we have met
them in a number of areas. This
m i ttee last Friday by May or
can be done locally, voluntarily,
I v an A llen J r . of Atianta.)
and by private business itself!
On the other hand, there are
the United States and then gen- '
hundreds of communities and
erally ignored by the presidents
cities, certainly throughout the
and congresses of the United
nation that have not ever adM ayor AUen
States. Like a foundling baby,
dressed themselves to the issue.
this awesome problem has been
Whereas, others have flagrantly
that responsibility of the press
left on the doorsteps of local
the demand; and today,
governments throughout the nastand in all defiance to a ny
television as well as the written
press) is inseparable from free. It is true that Atlanta has
dom of the press.
The Congress of the United
achieved success in eliminating
We are fortunate that we have
States is now confronted with a
discrimination in areas where
one of the world famous edigrave decision. Shall you pass a
some other cities have failed,
to1ial spokesmen for reason and
public accommodation bill that
but we do not boast of our sucforc es this issue? Or, shall you
moderation on one of our white
cess. Instead of boasting, we
create another round of disputes
newspapers, along with other
say with the humility of those
over segregation by refusing to
editors and many reporters who
who believe in reality that we
pass such legislation?
stress significance rather than
have achieved our measure of
sensation in the r eporting and
success only because we looked
interpretation of what happens
Might Slip
facts in the face and accepted
in our city.
Surely, the Congress r ealizes
the Supreme Court's decisions
As I see it, our Negro leaderthat after having failed to take
as inevitable and as the law of
ship in Atlanta is responsible
any definite action on this subour land. Having embraced
and constructive. I am sure
ject in the last ten years, to fail
r ealism in general, we then set
that our Negro leadership is as
to pass the bill would amount to
out to solve specific problems
desirous of obtaining additional
an endorsement of private busiby local cooperation between
civic and economic and personness setting up an entirely new
people of good will and good
al rights as · is any American
status of discrimination through.sense representing both races.
citizen. But by constructive I out the nation, Cities like Atlanta
~an to define .Atlanta's Negro
might slip backwards, Hotels aml
.,. Given Rig hts
leadership as being realistic- restaurants that have already
Atlanta's steps h a v e been as recognizing that it is more
taken this issue upon themselves '
taken in some instances in comand opened their doors might
important to obtain the rights
pliance with court decisions, and
find it convenient to go back to l
they seek than it is to stir up
in other instances the steps have demonstrations.
the old status. Failure by Con- 1
been voluntary prior to any
gress to take definite action at
court action. In each instance .
this time is by inference an enmeans by which these rights
the action has resulted in white
dorsement of the right of pri- 1
citizens relinquishing special
business to practice ra- 1
privileges which they had en- leaders constantly a d d r e s s
cial discrimination and, in my
interestjoyed under the practices of
opinion, would start the same
ed in results instead of rhetoric.
racial discrimination. Each acold round of squabbles and dem•
tion also has resulted in the Ne- They reach for lasting goals in- onstrations that we have bad
momengro citizen being given rights
in the past.
which all others previously had tary publicity. They are realGentlemen, if I had your
enjoyed and which he has been ists. not rnbble rou ers. Alon
�Now I would like to submit
my personal reasons why I
think Atlanta has resolved some
of these problems while iii other
cities, solutions have seemed
impossible and strife and conflict have resulted.
As an illustration, I would'like
t.o describe a recent visit of an
official delegation from a great
Eastern city which has a Negro
population of over 600,000 cansisting of in excess of 20 per
cent of its whole population.
The members of this delegation at first simply did not understand and would hardly believe that the business, civic and
political interests of Atlanta had
intently concerned themselves
with the Negro population. I
still do not believe that they are
convinced that all of our civic
bodies backed by the public interest and supported by the city
government have da!ily concerned themselves with an effort
to solve our gravest problemwhich is relations between our
Not Hidden
Gentlemen, Atlanta has not
swept this question under the
rug at any point. Step by stepsometimes under court ordersometimes 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 leadership.
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
1 as come into focus, we have
1pointed the people involved
t ' work out the solution-thea" owners to work with the top
~ leaders, or hotel owners
work with the top leadership,
'· certain restaurant owners
tho of their own volition dealt
.vith the top Negro leadership.
By developing the lines of communication and respectability,
we have been able to reach amic able 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 great number of intelligent, well-educated Negro citizens have chosen t.o remai n in
our city. As a result of their
education, they have had the
ability to develop a prosperous
Negro business community.
Then there is another powerful factor working in the behalf of good racial relations in
our city. We have news media,
both white and Negro, whose
leaders strongly believe and put
into practice the great truth
I do not believe that any sincere American citizen desires
to see the rights of private business restricted by the federal
government unl'ess such restriction is absolutely necessary for
the welfare of the people of this
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 driscrimination by race in the
selection of its customers.
What ls Right?
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 r ace 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 now soon would we again
be going through the old turmoil
of riots, strife, demonstrations,
boycotts, picketing?
Are we going to say that' ~t is
all right for the Negro citizen
to go into the bank on Main
Street and to deposit his earnings or borrow money, then to
go to department stores to buy
what he needs, to go t.o the supermarket to purchase food for
his family, and so on along
Main Street until he comes to a
r estaurant 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, t.o insist
that the Negro's citizenship be
changed and that, as a secon·d
class citizen, he is to be refused
service? I submit that 1t 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 issues of 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
I am 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
experience rhave had, I would
pass a public accommodation
bill. Such a bill, J;iowever,
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 decision.
I r ealize that it is quite easy to
ask you to give an opportunity '
to each businessman in each
city to make his decision and
accomplish such an objective
. . . but it is extremely difficult
to legislate 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 courts
which helped in getting over the
troubled water of eiimination of
discrimination in public schools. 1
It seems to me that cities working with private business institutions could now move into the
same area and that the federal
government legislation should
be based on the idea that those
businesses have a reasonable
time to accomplish such an act. .
Last Resort
I think a public accommoda- ~
tion law now should stand only ~
as the last resort to assure that a
discrimination is eliminated, but -a
that such a law would grant a '!j
r easonable time for cities and '
businesses to carry out t his ~
function before
federal interven- 0Ii
tion. .

It nught even be necessary
that the time factor be made
more lenient in favor of smaller cities and communities, for .
we all know that large metropolitan areas have the capabili- l
ty of adjusting t.o changes more
rapidly than smaller communities.
But the point I want to emphasize again is that now is the '
time for legislative action. We
cannot dodge the issue. We
cannot l o o k b a c k over our
shoulders or turn the clock back
to the 1860s. We must take action now to assure a greater
future for our citizens and our
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
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

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