Reporter: Morris, Aubrey R..
In this WSB newsfilm clip from a press conference held in Atlanta, Georgia on July 1, 1962, Roy Wilkins, executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), speaks to reporters before the beginning of the organization's national convention. Audio for the clip is inconsistent; comments may not be completely recorded. The clip begins with Roy Wilkins speaking to reporters, possibly from a conference room at the Hilton Inn; only part of his initial comments is recorded. While the Kennedy presidential administration has not passed any civil rights legislation, Wilkins believes they have "created a friendly climate for civil rights." As evidence of the administration's support, Wilkins cites the encouragement of voter registration, the protection of Freedom Riders, and the president's personal attitude of concern. Wilkins also specifically mentions that president John F. Kennedy believes in the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision; in contrast, Wilkins states that Kennedy's predecessor Dwight D. Eisenhower refused to endorse or comment publicly on the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education. Wilkins makes a comment about a luncheon for NAACP "life members" that is not completely recorded. When asked about segregation in downtown eating facilities, Wilkins points out over one thousand five hundred delegates are attending the convention, and they will eat anywhere they can. Wilkins imagines some may try to eat at segregated restaurants in Atlanta, but does not believe sit-ins or other demonstrations will be the convention's focus. The clips audio breaks before Wilkins mentions a previous NAACP convention held in Kansas City, Missouri where restaurants closed, allegedly for remodeling, rather than face the possibility of integration. Wilkins is not surprised that some Atlanta restaurants have closed for a similar reason. Replying to a reporter's question about citizenship behavior among African Americans, Wilkins views African Americans just as other American citizens: some of whom are active in improving their communities and others who are less so. The clip audio breaks again after which Wilkins expands on the situation with Eisenhower and the Supreme Court ruling in the Brown case. Wilkins asserts that the White House's attitude toward civil rights influences the country and maintains that the president should have a positive attitude toward African Americans. When asked if Wilkins sees token integration as a step in the right direction, he responds that "as a practical matter it isn't a step." Another reporter asks if Wilkins knows how many convention participants are housed at the Hilton Inn; Wilkins' response is not recorded. Wilkins outlines the convention's focus as school desegregation in the North and in the South; increased voter registration in the South; and elimination of discrimination in employment and in housing. The organization will view other issues, such as segregation of public accommodations, as "clean-up" work. Asked about potential conflicts from several organizations in the South focusing on voter registration, Wilkins recognizes the long-standing interest of the NAACP in voter registration and welcomes the "good and healthy" competition between the various civil rights groups. The reporters and Wilkins then speak about the effects of hotel segregation in Atlanta on the convention. Wilkins acknowledges that convention participants do not like hotel segregation and that many participants will express their displeasure. Although the audio breaks again, Wilkins continues by sharing with the reporters copies of telegrams sent by the NAACP to labor organizer Jimmy Hoffa and to singer and actress Doris Day, who each have financial interests in one of Atlanta's segregated hotels. The telegrams appear to indicate the NAACP's displeasure with hotel segregation in Atlanta. While Wilkins explains that he chose to make reservations at a desegregated hotel rather than use publicity to potentially force desegregation, he later indicates that NAACP attempts to negotiate with the segregated hotels made little progress. Wilkins informs reporters that Atlanta was chosen as a convention site two years ago and reminds them of the NAACP's long presence in the South. He points out that some members enjoy attending the annual convention a little closer to their home. While the Atlanta convention was not specifically organized as a way of pressuring businesses to desegregate, Atlanta "is the heart of the South ... and it is the city that should be making the greatest progress in race relations." The camera moves to another angle and a man in a light suit is seen sitting next to Wilkins; also seen is a WSB camera and reporter Aubrey Morris. The clip ends with a portion of a comment by Wilkins where he points out that because of segregation, talented African Americans from Georgia like Jackie Robinson are being forced from the state in search of desegregated opportunities.
Title supplied by cataloger.
The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection.
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Cite as: WSB-TV newsfilm clip of NAACP executive director Roy Wilkins speaking to reporters at a press conference before the NAACP annual convention held in Atlanta, Georgia, 1962 July 1, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 0047, 32:26/50:25, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.