1950 - 1960
1959-1962 saw sweeping success in the movement to desegregate Atlanta. Progress was slow and often came with frustrating consequences, but was continuous nonetheless. Spurred by an idealistic generation of students, the integration efforts focused on nonviolent, direct tactics. Named "The City Too Busy To Hate" under the reign of Mayor William B. Hartsfield, the sight of white patrons harassing and rioting over black citizens sitting at a lunch counter destroyed that carefully crafted charade. The federal court ruled Atlanta's segregated bus system unconstitutional in January of 1959.
On May 19, 1959 Maynard Jackson's mother becomes the first African-American to be issued a card to the public library. After the 1959 federal court ordered immediate desegregation of Atlanta public schools, Georgia governor Ernest Vandiver collaborated with John Sibley (a white business elite) to devise a plan to circumvent the ruling of Brown v. the Board of Education Topeka by making state constitutional amendments to provide funding for students wishing to transfer out of integrated schools. This resulted in completely legal, "separate but equal" schools.
The Atlanta Inquirer, founded to chronicle the Civil Rights movement from a liberal perspective, printed its first edition on July 31, 1960.
On October 14, 1960 the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee held its first conference in the Atlanta University Center. Five days later, they staged a mass sit-in at the lunch counters of eight Atlanta department stores, which led to the September 1961 willful desegregation of many restaurants. Georgia Tech peacefully integrates its student body in the same month. Earlier that year, Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes became the first African-American students to enroll at the University of Georgia.
1962 saw the court mandated integration of public pools and parks, as well as the hiring of 16 of Atlanta's first African-American firemen, and the election of Leroy Johnson (the first Georgia senator since 1907).
Tour the MLK National Historic Site by GPS and enjoy history at your own pace.
Vicki L. Crawford, director of the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection, discusses the annual observances of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday and Black History Month