Unit 12

Civil Rights


A: Describe major developments in civil rights & Georgia's role during the 1940s & 50s; including roles of Herman Talmadge, Benjamin Mays, the 1946 governor race & the end of white primary, Brown v Board of Education, Martin Luther King, Jr & the 1956 state flag

B: Analyze the role of Georgia & prominent Georgians played in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s & 70s, including the founding of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Sibley Commission, admission of Hamilton Holmes & Charlayne Hunter to UGA, Albany Movement, March on Washington, Civil Rights Act, the election of Maynard Jackson as mayor of Atlanta, & the role of Lester Maddox

C; Discuss the impact of Andrew Young on Georgia

Major Developments of the Civil Rights Movement (1940 - 1959)

The 1940s & 50s saw a major push by African-Americans to fight segregation & reclaim civil rights that had been taken from them during the Jim Crow era. (Jim Crow laws legally enforced segregation in Southern US after Reconstruction; lasted until 1965) The Civil Rights Movement began the moment these laws were passed. The 40s & 50s were a time of organized & peaceful resistance that helped end these laws. African-Americans who came home from fighting in World War II began to push for civil rights. The armed forces had been desegregated by Harry Truman because their effort was needed in the war. Organizations like NAACP went to court to fight segregation laws and won many cases. Leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. focused on ending segregation by using economic boycotts such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1954.

In Georgia, African-Americans successfully ended the white primary in 1944 and were successful, for a time, in helping to elect moderate white politicians who were supportive of their cause. But in the 1946 governors race and the election of Herman Talmadge, segregationist politicians were elected and continued to strengthen Jim Crow laws in the state. Legislators changed the state flag to incorporate the Confederate battle flag in protest of pro-civil rights court rulings like Brown v. Board of Education. Because of this massive resistance by many white Georgians, African-Americans in the state would not gain full civil rights for almost another full decade.

Herman Talmadge

Herman Talmadge was the son of governor Eugene Talmadge. Before getting involved in politics, Herman earned a law degree from UGA & practiced law until WWII when he joined the Navy. After returning in 1946, he served as campaign manager for his father's last campaign for governor. Eugene won the election, but died before taking office. Herman was appointed by the GA General Assembly to take office. He served a short period of time before the GA Supreme Court ruled his appointment was unconstitutional. In 1948, a special election was held where he ran and easily won.

As governor, Talmadge successfully lobbied for a state sales tax to support Georgia's public education system. He is also credited for bringing more industry to GA. He was a segregationist who fought against the US Supreme Court's civil rights decisions, primarily integration of schools.

In 1956, Talmadge was elected to the US Senate where he served until 1981. As senator, he supported agricultural programs & continued to oppose civil rights legislation. In 1979, he was charged with financial misconduct & censured by the Senate. He lost the 1980 Senatorial election to Republican Mark Mattingly. After his defeat, he lived quietly in Henry County until he died at 88 years old.

Benjamin Mays

Benjamin Mays' most famous role was serving as mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr. He was also a leading advocate for civil rights before & after the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950 & 60s. Born to former slaves & share croppers in South Carolina, Mays' primary focus was education. He earned a Bachelor's degree from Bates College & a Masters & Ph.D from the University of Chicago. Before completing his Ph.D, a served as a teacher & dean. In 1936, he traveled to India where he met Mahatma Gandhi. They discussed many of the passive resistance strategies that Gandhi used against the British, which were adopted by civil rights leaders in America.

In 1940, Mays became president of Morehouse College. 4 years later, Martin Luther King, Jr. entered Morehouse. The two formed a mentor/mentee relationship that would last until King's murder in 1968. As president, Mays strengthened the school's academic rigor & finances. He retired in 1967, though he continued to be involved with organizations such as the NAACP & YMCA. He was also an active write & speaker until his death in 1984.

1946 Governor's Race

One of the most embarrassing pieces of GA history was the 1946 governors race or the "Three Governors' Controversy". This situation made GA a nationwide laughing stock, lowering its already tarnished reputation. The election led to a series of segregationist governors who ended some of the progressive reforms by Governor Ellis Arnall.

After Eugene Talmadge died before taking office in his 4th term, 3 men claimed the governors office. Many of his supporters felt that due to his poor health, he would not make it to the election. They discovered that the General Assembly had the power to select the 2nd or 3rd vote-getter should the governor die. Knowing this, they wrote in Herman Talmadge's name on the ballot.

However, the new GA Constitution stated that the lieutenant governor would take office if the governor died. Melvin Thompson, who was a member of the Anti-Talmadge faction of the Democratic party, was elected lieutenant governor. But in January 1947, the General Assembly appointed Herman Talmadge as governor.

At the same time, outgoing governor Ellis Arnall refused to abdicate the office until the issue was resolved. He believed the General Assembly did not have the authority to elect a governor. Arnall was affiliated with Anti-Talmadge Democrats which caused tension and altercations with Talmadge supporters. Talmadge eventually had state troopers escort Arnall out of the capital, changing the locks of the governor's office. Arnall refused to give up the governor's seal, setting up a 2nd governors office in a different location of the capital. Arnall eventually gave up his claim to the office, supporting Thompson. In the end, the GA Supreme Court ruled that Thompson was the rightful governor. Talmadge left the office within 2 hours of the ruling. A second election was held where Talmadge easily defeated Thompson.

The End of the White Primary

The white primary was a tactic used by southern whites to keep African-Americans from voting in the Democratic primary. At the time, Georgia was a one-party state thus the Democratic primary was the only election held. In 1944, several African-Americans, led by Dr. Thomas Brewer & Primus King (a minister & barber), attempted to vote in the white primary in Columbus, GA. King was told he could not vote & forcefully removed from the court house. In 1945, Brewer, King & several other African-Americans sued the state. In the court case, King v. Chapman et al., the federal district court ruled in favor of King, stating the white primary was unconstitutional. Governor Ellis Arnall did not fight the ruling, ending the white primary in Georgia.

Brown v. Board of Education

In 1954, the US Supreme Court declared segregated schools were unconstitutional. The GA General Assembly opposed this ruling, declaring the ruling null & void. Due to the decision, the Assembly threatened to stop funding & allow the Governor to close any school that desegregated. A year later, a case called Brown v. Board II ruled that schools MUST be desegregated "with deliberate speed". This ruling allowed Georgia & many other southern states to delay in integrating.

In 1958, some people of Atlanta fought against the legislature's segregationist stance, forming a group called "Help Our Public Education" (HOPE) to demand the government not shut down ANY school. In 1906, the Sibley Commission recommended that Georgia allow counties to decide if they would integrate their schools or not, without state interference.

In 1961, Atlanta was the first system to integrate, followed by Savannah, Athens & Brunswick. It wasn't until 10 years later that all school systems in the state were desegregated.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. I Have A Dream Speech
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is arguably the most well-known Georgian. His work during the Civil Right Movement earned him the Nobel Peace Prize & led to a national holiday in his honor. Due to his timeless devotion and efforts to non-violent protests, he is often seen as the "leader" of the civil rights movement.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta. He graduated from high school at 15 and began his college studies at Morehouse. His father and grandfather were ministers and he eventually followed in their footsteps. He earned his Ph. D in Divinity from Boston University. While there, he met his wife, Coretta Scott.

In 1954, King accepted an offer to become pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. A year later, he became the spokesman for the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott. Due to its success, King, along with other civil rights groups, attempted a similar action in Albany which wasn't as successful. His successes seemed to be followed by less that successful campaigns. The March on Washington, creation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and winning the Nobel Peace Prize were followed by his focus on discrimination in Chicago.

Nonetheless, King was instrumental in ending segregation & changing Atlanta's views on race & racial equality. Unfortunately, he did not live to see the results of his hard work, efforts & leadership come to reality.

The 1956 State Flag

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After the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education, many southern states urged their citizens to display acts of massive resistance against federal mandated legislation outlawing segregation. One of the ways the Georgia General Assembly showed their disapproval was to change the state flag. The design of the pre-1956 flag was based on the 1st Confederate States of America flag, but the 1956 flag included the Confederate battle flag. This flag was also adopted by "hate groups" such as the KKK.

To this day, there is much debate on reasons why the flag was changed. Some research found that legislators chose it to commemorate the anniversary of the Civil War. Some believe the flag was changed to protest civil rights legislation.

In 2001, Governor Roy Barnes changed the flag based on requests of supporters & civil rights activists. In 2003, the people of Georgia voted for the change. Today, it resembled the pre-1956 flag.

Major Developments of the Civil Rights Movement (1960 - 1979)

The struggle for civil rights in Georgia continued throughout the 1960s. At the beginning of the decade, the Sibley Commissin recommended that each school district choose if they would integrate or not. In 1961, the Atlanta school system was the first in the state to integrate. In the same year, Martin Luther King Jr attempted to campaign for civil rights in Albany.

Throughout the 60s, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) continued to target Georgia, In 1963, Savannah integrated due to the efforts of the NAACP. Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allan Jr, Coca-Cola president Robert Woodruff and other business leaders worked with civil rights leaders to ensure Atlanta desegregated peacefully. In the late 70s, Governor Jimmy Carter called for an end to discrimination in Georgia and soon African-Americans such as Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young were elected to high political offices.

Georgia was slow to integrate, especially in rural areas of the state. While the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Acts of 1965 changed the lives of African-Americans in major cities, rural areas struggled for many years to follow.

The Student Non-Violent Coordination Committee (SNCC) & Sibley Commission

The SNCC (pronounced "snick") was one of the major civil rights organizations of the 1960s. It was a national organization, formed in North Carolina and worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference focusing on peaceful, non-violent protests. The group, made up of high school & college-aged students, became known for sit-ins, freedom rides & the "freedom summer" in Mississippi.

In Georgia, Albany & Atlanta were major focuses of the SNCC. They were at the forefront of the Albany Movement, which although considered unsuccessful, its mistakes helped the group to organize more successful protests.

In Atlanta, successful sit-ins were organized in 1960. The group was successful in helped several African-Americans gain seats in the General Assembly.

After the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the Georgia General Assembly supported "massive resistance" to desegregation of Georgia's public schools. By 1960, Governor Ernest Vandiver was having to choose to follow federal mandates or close schools. He pushed for legislation that would create a committee to investigate the opinion of Georgians on the matter.

John Sibley, a segregationist lawyer who believed in resistance to federal mandates, led 10 hearings across the states to find out how the people felt. It was discovered that 60% of Georgians claimed they would rather close public schools that integrate.

Despite the findings, Sibley pushed for Georgia schools to desegregate on a limited basis. The legislature set to vote on the matter January 1961, but when UGA was integrated, focus changed. When Vandiver unsuccessfully tried to close UGA, he gave up and asked the General Assembly to accept Sibley's recommendations. Within a year, Atlanta schools desegregated.

Desegregation of UGA

In 1959, Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter did what many young people do after graduating from high school: applied to college. Holmes was his school's valedictorian, president of the senior class & co-captain of the football team. Hunter was involved in several organizations at her school, including the school newspaper & honors society. She was homecoming queen and graduated third in her class. These were 2 ideal students for any college to have.

Both were refused admission to UGA because of their race. Publically, UGA claimed their rejection was due to lack of housing & Holmes' vagueness during interviews. After numerous denials, both took their case to federal court where they ruled in favor of Holmes & Hunter. Both began classes January 6, 1961.

Soon after arriving on campus, a mob of students, locals and members of the KKK started a riot, throwing bricks and rocks through Holmes' dorm window. Georgia State Patrol escorted both students back to Atlanta. A few days later, the court ruled that Holmes and Hunter be reinstated and allowed to return to campus. The both eventually graduated from UGA. Holmes back a successful doctor in the Atlanta area until his death in 1995. Hunter became a well-respected journalist, still working in that profession today. In 2001, UGA celebrated the 40th anniversary of desegregation by renaming an academic building after Holmes and Hunter.

The Albany Movement

Due to the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, civil rights leaders in other southern cities chose to challenge segregation laws. One such city was Albany, Georgia. In Fall 1961, members of the SNCC and the local community began to protest the segregationist policies of the city. Massive resistance from whites and police officers led to over 500 protesters going to jail. Unlike Montgomery, many of Albany's black middle class did not initially support the protests. Non-violent police tactics were used to arrest and not harm the protesters.

In draw more attention to the cause, the SNCC invited Martin Luther King, Jr to take part in the protest. He was arrested many times, but always immediately released from jail. Most of the protesters were jailed, leaving almost no one left to protest.

By summer 1962, the Albany Movement was viewed as a failed attempt to desegregate an entire community, but a valuable learning lesson. King used what he learned, including the power of protest songs, in his campaigns in Birmingham. Despite the failure, black citizens of Albany believed they accomplished a lot. After King and the SNCC left, an African-American nominee for a county commission seat was in a run-off election. The following spring, all segregation laws were removed.

March on Washington

In 1963, over 250,000 civil rights activists gathered in Washington, DC to promote their cause & push for civil rights legislation. During the march, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his most famous speech: "I Have a Dream". The march led to the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, making King the most well-known spokesperson of the Civil Rights Movement.

The Civil Rights Acts

The Civil Rights Act of 1964

Forbade discrimination on the basis of gender and race in hiring, firing & promoting

The voting Rights Act of 1965

Prohibited states from imposing any voting qualifications on voting or denying the right to any citizen of the US to vote on account of race or color

Maynard Jackson (1938 - 2003)

Maynard Jackson was the first African-American mayor of a major southern city. He was born in Dallas, Texas and moved to Atlanta with his family in 1945 when his father became the pastor of a local church. His mother taught French at Spelman College. His maternal grandfather, John Wesley Dobbs, was a civil rights activist and founder of the Georgia Voters League.

Jackson attended Morehouse College, graduating in 1956 at 18. He worked towards a law degree at Boston University, but did not complete. He later finished his degree, earning it from North Carolina Central University in 1964.

Jackson moved back to Georgia in 1968, running against Herman Talmadge for Senate which he lost. He was a force to be reckoned with in city policies. Within 4 years, he became mayor of Atlanta at the age of 35.

He served as mayor from 1973 - 1981 and 1990 - 1994. While mayor, he was instrumental in providing more contract work to black-owned businesses and expanding Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport. He also sought to add more black police officers to the city's force and make sure that African-Americans were promoted in the department. During his term in the 1990s, he worked with Andrew Young and Billy Payne to bring the Olympics to the city.

He retired from public life in 1994 due to health issues. He continued to be active in business and started his own security and bond business. Jackson died in 2003 in Washington DC. In his honor, Atlanta renamed the airport Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Lester Maddox (1915 - 2003)

Lester Maddox was the last obviously segregationist governor of Georgia. But he ironically appointed more African-Americans to government positions than any other governors combined. He was supported by both blacks and whites due to his "little people days" where he would sit in the governor's office and listen to complaints of citizens. At the same time, he was criticized for not allowing flags to be flown at half-mast after the death of Martin Luther King Jr and for his fight against civil rights platforms of the Democratic party at their 1968 National Convention.

Maddox was born in Atlanta. After dropping out of high school, working several jobs, he opened the Pickrick restaurant in 1947 near the Georgia Tech campus. He gained attention for advertisements for the restaurant in the Atlanta Journal newspaper. He later became known throughout the nation for his use of ax handles to forcefully remove African-Americans who tried to integrate his restaurant. He closed it over integrating it.

In the late 50s, early 60s, he was quite unsuccessful in campaigns for mayor, losing to William B. Hartsfield and Ivan Allan Jr. He did win the governor's office in 1966 and later lieutenant governor where he clashed with Governor Jimmy Carter over many issues. He was unsuccessful in reclaiming the governors office in 1974 as well as the presidency in 1976. Once he retired, he tried his hand at business again, but never as successful as the Pickrick. Throughout his life, he apologized for his defense of segregation. Maddox died from cancer at the age of 87.

Andrew Young

Andrew Young was born to middle class parents in New Orleans, Louisiana. He graduated from Howard University with a degree in biology. From there, he went to Hartford, Connecticut, earning a degree in divinity. He moved to Georgia when he accepted a pastorial position at Bethany Congressional Church in Thomasville.

Young became very active the the Civil Rights Movement, primarily focusing on voting. He resigned from his job and started working for the SCLC where he organized "citizenship schools" that helped train civil rights volunteers in organizing & taking part in non-violent protests. He soon became a close associate to Martin Luther King Jr. He successfully organized demonstrations and voter registration campaigns throughout the South. He was with Dr. King the day of his assassination.

Young began his political career in 1972, He was elected as Georgia's first African-American Congressman since Reconstruction. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed him ambassador to the United Nations. He resigned from this position in 1979 after meeting with members of the Palestine Libertarian Organization which was a known terrorist organization in the US at the time.

He was elected mayor of Atlanta in 1981. As mayor, he was instrumental in the growth of the city, gaining national and international prestige. Young continued to work for Georgia's economic development after leaving office, serving as co-chair of Georgia's 1996 Olympic Committee and working as a consultant for many international organizations which he continues to do today.