1970s to Present Day

Brush up on the rich history of the civil rights movement in 1970 and beyond. A timeline of notable civil rights events in Atlanta from 1970 and beyond…

November 7, 1972

Andrew Young is elected to the 5th District House of Representatives, becoming the first African-American to hold office since Reconstruction.

On November 7, Andrew Jackson Young, Jr. became one of the first black Southerners elected to Congress in the 20th century. Elected to the 5th District House of Representatives, the pastor and close friend of Martin Luther King, Jr. championed causes for the poor and working-class Americans. A lifelong civil rights activist, Young worked closely with Georgia president Jimmy Carter to transform U.S. foreign policy, focusing on human rights and economic development in third-world countries. He served three terms in Congress before returning to Atlanta, where he was elected mayor from 1981-1989.


Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr. is inaugurated as the first African-American Mayor of Atlanta.

At age 35, Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr. was inaugurated as the first black mayor of a Southern metropolis. The prodigious attorney and political activist also served as the city's first African-American Vice Mayor in 1969. Using affirmative action, Jackson made strides in all facets of city business. Transforming the police department, he helped promote African-American officers into higher ranks. After acquiring an abandoned downtown building, Jackson ended a two-week standoff with the city's indigent citizens by transforming it into 3,500 housing units for the poor. He also worked to repair the rift between the city's political officials and the white business community. The largest achievement of his tenure came with the construction of the massive new airport terminal using a large minority work force. Maynard Jackson, Jr. suffered a fatal heart attack on June 23, 2003. He was interred at Oakland Cemetery after his memorial service at the Atlanta Civic Center, which drew more than 5,000 mourners.

October 10, 1980

The Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change is proclaimed a National historic site.
On October 10, the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change is drafted into the list of National Historic sites. Established in 1968 by Coretta Scott King, the Center is a living memorial to educate and perpetuate the nonviolent movement for justice, equality and peace. The King Center is comprised of Martin Luther's birth home, his final resting place, the Ebenezer Baptist Church of his youth, and the King Center Library which houses his teachings and writings. It draws over one million visitors annually.


Kenny Leon beings an unprecedented 11-year tenure as first African-American Artistic Director of the Alliance Theatre Company.

Beginning what would be an unprecedented 11-year tenure, Kenny Leon becomes the first African-American Artistic Director of the Alliance Arts Theatre Company. Leon sought not only to diversify the productions, but also the cast, staff and audience. He increased African-American attendance from less than 5% in 1990 to 25% by 2003. Raising the theatre's national and international profile, the Alliance was awarded extensive funding under his leadership. As the Southeast's largest regional theatre, the Alliance has an annual attendance of over 250,000. In celebration of their 30th anniversary, Leon directed the world premier of Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida, an Elton John and Tim Rice musical. It moved to Broadway in the Spring of 2000, under the name Aida, where it won 4 Tonys. He resigned his position in 2001, and cofounded his own company – True Colors Theatre – in 2003. Kenny Leon is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University and mentors for the Theatre Development Fund's Open Doors program.

November 4, 2001

Shirley Franklin is elected as Atlanta's first female African-American mayor.

Shirley Clarke Franklin becomes the first African American female mayor of a major Southern city on November 4. A member of the Democratic Party, Atlanta's 58th mayor worked as  the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs under mayor Maynard Jackson, an as Chief Administrative Officer and City Manager under Andrew Young. Within her first seven years, Franklin has implemented one of the country's strongest ethics reformations. She is lauded for her "green" efforts – improving the city's sewer system and making the city have one of the highest percentages of LEED-Certified skyscrapers in the nation. Her human rights initiatives have also garnered attention. After commissioning the "Blueprint to End Homelessness in Atlanta in 10 Years", the flagship project 24/7 Gateway Center opened in 2005 and serves over 500 indigent citizens daily. Also included in this initiative, the "Mayor's Youth Plan" which has awarded over 1,700 Atlanta public school graduates with financial and technological aid. Shirley Franklin is a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Commission, and in October 2005, was named one of the "Best Leaders of 2005" by U.S. News and World Report.

June 28, 2005

Leah Ward Sears is elected chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, making her the first African-American woman to sit on the Supreme Court.

Leah Ward Sears was elected chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court on June 28. A member of the Democratic Party, Sears is the first African-American woman in the nation to sit on the Supreme Court. Appointed in 1992 by the-Governor Zell Miller, she became, at age 36, the youngest justice and first woman to serve the Supreme Court. Notable opinions include Sear's affirmation to overturn a state sodomy law and denouncement of the electrical chair as a human execution form. She is the founder of the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys, as well as the Columbus branch of the Battered Women's Project. Leah Ward Sears left the Supreme Court in June of 2009, and has now joined the Atlanta law firm of Schiff Hardin.


Filmmaker and movie mogul Tyler Perry opens his 200,000 square foot studios in Atlanta, making them the first African-American owned film studio in the nation.

Becoming the first black producer to own a major television and film studio, Tyler Perry opens his 200,000 square foot studios. As of 2009, his films have grossed over $400 million worldwide. Earning around $75 million in 2008, Perry is just short of Hollywood's five highest paid men. A renown actor, director and producer, he is also an acclaimed screenwriter and author. In 2006, Perry's first book Don't Make A Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings: Madea's Unhibited Commentaries on Love and Life shot to the top of the New York Time's nonfiction bestseller list and remained for eight weeks. In 2009 alone, Perry has receives five awards, including a NAACP Image Award for "Outstanding Comedy Series". This film screen mogul hasn't forgotten his roots. Highly involved with local and national charities, Tyler Perry built a 20-home community for Hurricane Katrina survivors in his hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana.


Martin Luther King GPS Tour

Tour the MLK National Historic Site by GPS and enjoy history at your own pace.
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Celebrating Civil Rights

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
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