FOR HUMAN RIGHTS vII
40th Anniversary - March 2000
years ago, on March 9, 1960, the students of the six member
institutions in the Atlanta University Center ( Atlanta University,
Clark College, Morehouse College, Morris Brown College, Spelman
College, and the Interdenominational Theological Center) published
an advertisement in the Atlanta newspapers entitled “An
Appeal for Human Rights”. The “Appeal” protested
the devastating effect of racial segregation in the areas
of education, employment, housing, voting rights, hospital
access, public accommodations, and law enforcement. This document
alerted the citizens of Atlanta of the students’ determination
to seek immediate change. Joined by people of goodwill from
throughout the city and the nation, the Atlanta Student Movement
launched the sit-in protest campaign, which eventually led
to the end of legalized segregation in places of public accommodation.
While acknowledging the significant social and political gains
of the past four decades ...
we find that there remains much work still to be done in order
to remove the final vestiges of years of institutionalized
racism and prejudice. For while segregation under-girded by
law no longer exists, economic and social justice for all
is not yet a reality and the access made possible by desegregation
has not ended systemic racial inequities. In the year 2000,
we are witnessing a resurgence of racial bigotry and the withdrawal
of remedies designed to redress past wrongs. Economic power
for African Americans remains an elusive goal, especially
for the entrenched underclass, still mired in grinding poverty.
We are on the threshold of a new millennium that will be characterized
not only by global interdependence and structural economic
change, but also by greater racial and cultural diversity.
Metropolitan Atlanta is much more culturally diverse today
than in 1960 as a result of the arrival of large numbers of
Asian, Hispanic and other ethnic groups. It is also important
to recognize that an estimated 86% of the new entrants into
the U. S. labor force by 2010 will be non-white. The structural
changes in the economy and the transition to a post-industrial,
knowledge-based society in America makes the elevation of
the African American underclass even more imperative. These
current realities make racial discrimination a luxury our
nation can no longer afford, as we face economic challenges
from China, Japan, the European Union, and other nations.
At the dawn of the 21st century, we, the veterans of the 1960
Atlanta Student Movement, along with the current student leaders
of Clark-Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morris Brown
College, and Spelman College join our hearts and minds in
issuing a “Second Appeal for Human Rights”. We
affirm our commitment to uphold the inherent dignity of all
people. We protest injustice and call upon the citizens and
leaders of all races in the Metropolitan Atlanta to create
a shining example of progress and racial harmony in the United
The following are some of our concerns:
In the 1960s, the struggle for equal education centered on
the fight to integrate the public school system. Today, the
fight must be refocused. In 1960, the population of Atlanta
was 62 percent white. Since that time, as a result of “white
flight”, the white population of Atlanta has declined
by 64 %. Today, Atlanta’s population is 68% minority,
and over 80% of the children who attend public schools e 10-county Atlanta region since
1990 live north of 1-20, the area that has attracted the largest
increase in jobs and highway expenditures. Extraordinary spending
on road construction, with only a comparatively modest investment
in public transportation outside of Fulton and DeKalb Counties,
has created an absolute reliance on the automobile. As a result,
Atlanta is congested and has intolerable levels of air pollution.
According to a report on a study by the Brookings Institution
in Washington, “There is a ‘stark divide’
between the northern ‘haves’ and their less fortunate
brethren to the south, a growing schism that threatens the
region’s economic, social, and racial foundation, and
only a more equitable, geographically balanced level of growth
will keep the Atlanta region from choking on its success.”
The MARTA system serves only Fulton and Dekalb counties and
75% of its riders are African American. While the highest
concentration of African Americans live in Fulton and DeKalb
counties, more than 50% of the metropolitan area’s jobs
are outside of these two counties. The MARTA system does not
service suburban areas and only a limited number of African
American urban poor own cars. This mismatch between where
most African Americans live and where most new jobs are being
created is especially punishing on families trying to leave
the welfare rolls.
is projected that the Atlanta metropolitan region will spend
$36 billion over the next 25 years on transportation improvements.
It is imperative that the problems mentioned above become
a high priority on the agenda of the Georgia Regional Transportation
Authority and other transportation agencies.
In 1960, throughout the South, voting rights discrimination
against African Americans resulted in denial of that crucial
right to many of our citizens. Many people suffered and some
died in the struggle to gain the right to vote. Their sacrifices
laid the groundwork for the passage of the Voting Rights Act
of 1965. Yet, in Atlanta, low voter turnout for elections
in the African American community continues to be a problem.
For example, in November of 1997 only 37% of African Americans
registered to vote in Atlanta cast their ballots in the municipal
election. Another concern is the number of African Americans
who are not registered, or if registered, simply stay at home
on election day. We deplore this under-utilization of a privilege
won through untold sacrifice. The cure to these ills, where
they exist, is greater involvement in the political process
by the African American electorate and greater accountability
by public office holders.
In spite of the recent trends towards voter apathy, African
Americans hold high level political positions in city, county,
state, and national government. For example, in Atlanta, an
African American has held the office of mayor since 1974.
Currently, African Americans represent almost 20% of the elected
officials in the Georgia General Assembly, and hold a majority
of the seats on the Atlanta City Council and the Fulton County
Board of Commissioners. This trend is encouraging, but does
not represent in any real sense the true capacity of the African
American community in Atlanta, or in Georgia, to participate
in determining its own destiny in a democratic society.
JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY
Between 1978 and 1996, the prison population in the United
States more than tripled from 500,000 to 1.8 million. The
tripling of the incarceration of non-violent offenders during
that period, resulted largely from the heavy enforcement of
drug possession laws. African Americans and Hispanics are
more often subjected to police brutality, suffer from racial
disparity in sentencing, and tend to be more heavily impacted
by the “get-tough-on-crime” laws requiring life
terms without parole, mandatory minimum sentences and “two-strikes-you-are-out”
laws. In addition, as a result of economic factors, large
numbers of African Americans and Hispanic Americans are more
dependent upon public defenders who have heavy case loads.
State of Georgia has one of the largest prison populations
in the world. Moreover, the criminal justice system of Georgia
has failed to ensure that all prisoners serve appropriate
and equitable periods of incarceration. Some other troubling
Atlanta has the highest crime rate, as well as, the highest
proportion of residents living below poverty of all cities
of comparable size.
Although African Americans represent around 30% of the population
of Georgia, they account for nearly 70% of the inmate population.
African Americans represent 68% of the prisoners in Georgia
serving life sentences without parole, as compared to 32%
The majority of the prisoners on death row are African Americans
Police brutality and racial profiling against African Americans
in Atlanta and the nation are common and rarely punished.
These incidents are seldom publicized except for high profile
Widespread violence in Atlanta and the nation, in homes, religious
institutions, schools, and work places, constitutes a serious
public health problem. The African American Community tends
to be disproportionately affected by this violence.
citizens should be concerned about the conditions discussed
above. It is well known that crimes against persons and property
in our society are committed in large measure by persons without
education, without economic security, and without hope. The
resulting costs to society for systems of protection, policing,
apprehension, adjudication, and incarceration, far exceed
the reasonable cost of investment in the uplift of these citizens.
Even though Affirmative Action programs have proven to be
the most effective remedy used to address racial inequities
following the civil rights movement, support for Affirmative
Action is eroding across the nation. Far more than thirty
years of remediation are required in order to lessen the impact
of 250 years of slavery and 100 years of racial segregation.
The recall of Affirmative Action will create a grave setback
in efforts to achieve parity in this nation.
As a progressive community, we must not lose sight of the
magnitude of the problems created by years of second-class
citizenship. It is unreasonable to assume that the recovery
will take only a fraction of the time that the sickness was
allowed to fester. Atlanta, “the city too busy to hate”,
must become pro-active in addressing these issues. Benign
neglect is not acceptable.
above are some of the most egregious concerns confronting
the Atlanta community in general and the African American
community in particular. There are others, including the state
of health of African Americans, the under-representation and
stereotypical treatment of African Americans in the media,
and the limited representation of African Americans in the
information technology industry.
the past 40 years, some of the achievements of the city of
Atlanta have been remarkable. People from all over the world
look to Atlanta as an example of an exciting, progressive
city enhanced by its cultural diversity. Nowhere are the human
resources richer or more capable of addressing intransigent
problems than in the city of Atlanta.
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
We, the veterans of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s,
and the student leaders of today, beseech the citizenship
and leaders of Atlanta, and the academic community, to develop
plans to address problems which impede the full realization
of the promise of equality for all Atlanta citizens. These
plans should focus on creating equitable opportunities for
citizens of the underclass. Specifically, we call upon the
Mayor of Atlanta and the Governor of Georgia, in conjunction
with the County Commissioners in Metropolitan Atlanta, to
convene a Commission consisting of educators, students, corporate
leaders, elected officials, representatives of faith-based
communities, civic leaders, and youth. This Commission must
examine the myriad of issues confronting the underclass and
recommend policies that will enable these citizens to receive
all benefits of full citizenship in the city of Atlanta, the
State of Georgia and the United States of America.
Carolyn Long Banks, Robert Felder, Marion Bennett, Frank
Holloway, Charles A. Black, Lonnie C. King, Jr., Wilma Long
Blanding, Gwendolyn Harris Middlebrooks, Anne R. Borders-Patterson,
Daniel B. Mitchell, Herschelle Sullivan Challenor, Johnny
E. Parham, Jr., Julius E. Coles, Roslyn Pope, Morris J.
Dillard, Frank Smith, Lydia Tucker Douglas, Mary Ann Smith
Sumrall, James Felder
President, SGA, Clark Atlanta University
President - SGA, Morehouse College
Executive Internal Vice President - SGA, Morris Brown College
President - SGA, Spelman College