The strategies and tactics used by African American leaders in
galvanize black voting power, gain access to public facilities
and institutions, and increase economic opportunities for African
Americans offer a valuable perspective on the uniqueness of Atlanta’s Civil
Rights Movement experience during the period
1940 to 1970.
The core of that uniqueness resides in the fundamental role that
churches, social organizations, businesses, and other institutions
Avenue ("Sweet Auburn"), and the colleges and universities
of the Atlanta
University Center (AUC), played in developing black leadership.
While African American leaders traditionally have emerged from
institutions in their communities, the confluence of the businesses
and institutions of “Sweet Auburn” with the Historically
Black Colleges and Universities of the city – Atlanta
Brown College, Clark
and the Interdenominational
Theological Center –
created an infrastructure for activism that was unparalleled.
From 1940-1970, the goals of the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta
did not change. There was a consistent and clarion call to educate
and register eligible African American voters, a demand for access
to public and private opportunities on par with the access afforded
Atlanta’s white community, and there was a call for equal protection
under the law. However, as tactics changed over time,
a corresponding change in perspective occurred: civil
increasingly seen as basic human
rights applicable to all peoples
— no matter where they may be.
As noted above, the role of organizations on Auburn Avenue and the
role of faculty and, most profoundly, students in the AUC were
unique features of the city’s movement. Despite a period of decline
on Auburn Avenue beginning in the 1970s and challenges in the AUC
at the beginning of the twenty-first century,
these communities continue to serve as incubators for African American
In 2000, forty years after participants
in the Atlanta student movement issued “An Appeal for Human Rights”
on March 9, 1960, a second appeal
was put forth by former members of the Committee on Appeal for Human
Rights (COHAR), and the Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), united
with current student leaders in the AUC. They
called upon Atlanta to confront old problems, such as voter apathy
and economic inequalities, and to face the new challenges of the
city’s increasingly diverse population — from high dropout rates
in the schools to homelessness to crime in the streets. Their rallying
cry is compelling:
In past years, we, as African Americans, have resisted the
assaults against our persons, our dignity, our rights, our liberties
and our very survival through resolute solidarity among our
community groups and institutions. We must do so now again.
We must commit our intellect and energies across lines of geography,
age, sex, economic and social station in order to secure for
all citizens the guarantees of the United States Constitution.
for Human Rights V. II," The AUC
The Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta does indeed live on.
Resources (click here)
Writers: Professors Clarissa Myrick-Harris and Norman Harris, OneWorld
Archives, Atlanta, Georgia. This is excerpted with permission
Story." See the complete essay at the web site Atlanta
in the Civil Rights Movement, 1940-1970,
by the Atlanta
Regional Council for Higher Education.
Editors and Researchers: Kamille Bostick, Lauren Chambers, Christina
L. Davis, Aggie Ebrahimi, Mary Boyce Hicks, Courtney Thomas, Professor
Barbara McCaskil, and the students of ENGL 2400 (Survey of Multicultural
American Literature, Spring 2007) and AFAM/ENGL 3230 (Survey of
African American Literature, Spring 2007).
Web Site Designer: William Weems
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