In this silent WSB newsfilm clip from 1964, civil rights demonstrators protest the segregation of Atlanta public facilities at Atlanta City Hall while the Atlanta Board of Aldermen conduct a meeting inside.
The clip begins with a view of Sam Massell, president of Atlanta's Board of Aldermen, presiding over a meeting of the Board of Aldermen at Atlanta City Hall. This is followed by a close-up shot of Massell speaking into a microphone. Unidentified members of the Board of Aldermen speak amongst themselves and to the the public; these shots are interspersed with close-up shots of the white audience in attendance. Next, a group of African American demonstrators are gathered silently outside of the doors of the meeting room of the Board of Aldermen; they are holding placards and carrying protest leaflets. Some of the signs read "End discrimination in public places" and "Down segregation."
After a break in the clip, members of the Board of Aldermen continue to make public statements and conduct smaller conversations with their colleagues; there is also one quick shot of the backs of African American demonstrators waiting outside of the Board of Aldermen's doorway. Coverage of the protest outside the meeting continues after another break in the clip; as the protestors continue to demonstrate, a white man carrying documents walks through the line of demonstrators and into the meeting. As the demonstrators continue to wait outside of closed doors, the camera slowly pans over protest signs, which include "End discrimination in hospitals," "End discrimination in public places." The clip ends when a white man enters a doorway adjacent to the demonstrators, and a young African American woman carrying a sign hands him a leaflet as he passes through the hallway.
Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Atlanta still had not managed to pass a public accommodations ordinance that would desegregate public facilities; in failing to do so, Atlanta had fallen behind many Southern cities in progressive civil rights legislation. Although he was also under considerable pressure from local civil rights groups, mayor Ivan Allen personally believed that segregation would drive national business opportunities away from the city. In January of 1964, Allen called upon the the city's Board of Aldermen to create local ordinances that would desegregate Atlanta public facilities. After some disagreement, the Board of Aldermen voted in favor of asking city businesses to desegregate, though the city's legal counsel later advised that the legislative body was not granted such authority in the city charter. In an attempt to overcome this legal obstruction, lone African American state senator Leroy Johnson proposed a bill to the state's General Assembly that would empower the Board of Aldermen to pass a public accommodations ordinance; it was struck down by segregationists. Reluctantly, Allen finally accepted that the only solution to the problem would be the public accommodations section of the federal civil rights bill that would ultimately become the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Ivan Allen was the only elected official from the South that testified before Congress in support of the public accommodations section of the bill before it became law.
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.