In this WSB newsfilm clip dated January 27 and 29, 1964, Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen, Jr. addresses a body of white and African American business, religious, and civic group leaders at City Hall with regard to recent demonstrations centered around segregated restaurants and hotels involving members of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Committee on Appeal for Human Rights (COAHR), and the Ku Klux Klan that resulted in violence; members of SNCC, SCLC and several Atlanta community leaders address the same audience in City Hall; and Fulton county solicitor general William T. Boyd makes an announcement at a press conference where he pledges to prosecute demonstrators who violate the law. Several segments of the clip appear to be out of sequence.
The clip is divided into two parts. The first part, approximately six minutes long, begins with a silent portion comprised of several scenes of a government assembly. A poorly-lit close-up of an unidentified speaker is followed by another unidentified speaker at a podium, and then a shot of several men, presumably city legislators, who are working at a long desk. Behind them, a wall is lined with portraits. A different group of men, who are also presumably city legislators, are seated listening. The screen goes black. The next several silent scenes are taken
inside of Atlanta City Hall, and show Mayor Allen speaking to a full audience comprised of both whites and African Americans. The next portion of the clip contains sound. Reading from a prepared statement, Mayor Allen says "this irresponsible element that chooses to assume threatening posture and attack our city destructively will find that they cannot undermine Atlanta's solid foundation of fairness and freedom built so patiently over many years by men and women of good sense and good will of both races." The sound drops out at the end of Allen's statement. The next few silent scenes include a close-up of men taking notes, a shot of an unidentified African American man with a cane speaking into a standing microphone that is taken from behind two video cameras, and several more shots of the audience.
The next shot contains sound. Here, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) executive secretary James Forman says "there is no malice in the hearts of anyone who adheres to the principle of nonviolence against a particular individual; in fact, we love our white brothers even though they make it difficult for us to love. We even love the Ku Klux Klan that was demonstrating against us, even though they may not understand that . . ." He is interrupted by Mayor Allen, who reminds Forman to remain on subject; Allen reminds him that he is extending him every courtesy he has of other speakers. Forman defends his speech by replying "Well, I am speaking to the subject, because the subject involves the rationale of the demonstrations in the city of Atlanta. Some of us have been called irresponsible, and I think it's necessary for the city of Atlanta at this moment to understand some of the reservoir which produces the need for demonstrations." The sound drops out at the end of Forman's statement.
In the next few silent shots, Mayor Allen speaks to the audience from the podium, pointing for emphasis; this is followed by several shots of the audience. The camera closes in on the front row where restaurateur Lester Maddox, owner of the segregated Pickrick restaurant is seated; Maddox raises his hand to speak. This is followed by several shots of an unidentified white man, reading from a prepared statement at the standing microphone. The clip jumps to several shots of segregated Leb's restaurant, where a small group of African American and white demonstrators picket along the sidewalk carrying a banner that reads "Democracy on the line why are students in jail?" These shots are interspersed with shots of a white police officer directing traffic, and two white police officers standing on a street corner, presumably the corner of Forsyth and Luckie Streets, and the location of Leb's restaurant. In the next shot, Mayor Allen speaks from a podium at the meeting in city hall.
The next shot contains sound. Here, Mayor Allen states "I have asked you to meet here this afternoon to help evaluate and work out a solution to a situation which threatens not only the good name, but beyond that, even the public safety of this city." The clip breaks and skips to another section of Allen's address, where he says "Atlanta's tolerance has been almost unlimited. Atlanta's desire for every citizen to have liberty, freedom, and equal rights is unabated. Atlanta will not slow down or stop in its efforts to work out solutions to all problems of racial relations. That is the course of action to which Atlanta has been and shall continue to be committed." The sound drops out again. Several Atlanta business and community leaders speak to the audience from the stand microphone; the leaders include Atlanta board of education member Dr. Rufus E. Clement, executive secretary of the Atlanta Restaurant Association Ed England, an unidentified African American leader, and executive director of SCLC Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker. There are several more silent shots of the audience interspersed with close-up shots of Maddox, and shots of cameramen filming Mayor Allen speaking at the podium; one of the cameramen is operating his camera while simultaneously holding a lit cigarette. There are further shots of the audience and of Mayor Allen guiding an unidentified white man to the microphone; the man goes on to read from a prepared statement. There are several exterior shots of Atlanta city hall, including one where three men in overcoats and hats enter the building; this is followed by further scenes from the meeting, where the mayor and members of the audience are led in prayer by a young white clergyman. After the clergyman concludes the prayer, the standing audience collectively sits down. Next, a white audience member asks a question from his seat; the clip jumps to a shot of the audience taken from behind Mayor Allen as people are looking for places to sit down. The last shot in the first part of the clip shows Mayor Allen arranging his documents at the podium.
In the second segment of the clip, which is approximately five minutes long, William T. Boyd, solicitor general of the Atlanta judicial circuit reads from a prepared statement delivered on January 27, 1964. He is filmed seated inside an office; there is a typewriter at the desk and a file cabinet in the background. After a false start, Boyd states "Tragedy, bloodshed and death were narrowly averted in the streets of Atlanta this past weekend. That some persons of both races, white and Negro, escaped serious and possibly fatal injuries was the merest accident and I thank God for that accident." He pauses, the clip breaks, then he resumes speaking; the beginning of his statement is recorded incompletely. He argues that the conflict that broke out during protests the previous weekend provides the nation with a false picture of Atlanta "which does not show the harmony with which our Negro and white citizens have worked to improve the lot of both races here" and points to examples of peaceful school desegregation, voluntary desegregation by some merchants and restaurant owners, and peaceful demonstrations as examples of Atlanta's successful race relations. Boyd expresses his faith in the law, notes that law enforcement groups cannot uphold the law without the help of the public, noting "here respect for it is weakened, where the prophets of hate and deceit, who love not themselves, their nation, or their god prevail against it, there is tragedy. " He urges citizens to uphold the law in order to preserve public safety. Boyd stops, asks the cameraman "How was it, alright?" grabs his waiting cigarette, and takes a puff. The clip breaks, and then returns to a shot of Boyd leaving the desk with a stack of papers in his hand. The clip breaks to a gray screen, and resumes with what is probably an earlier shot of Boyd, seated at the desk. He announces that he is bringing twenty-four cases to the Fulton county grand jury on Tuesday, that they are known as "the Krystal cases" (presumably cases involving demonstrators attempting to desegregate Atlanta-area Krystal restaurants), and involve Georgia's anti-trespass law. He announces "I will use this office and its resources to curb violence by hoodlums and thugs of any race." The clip breaks, and Boyd expresses that as solicitor general of the Atlanta judicial circuit, that it is his "duty to speak out against those who would seek their day in court in the streets jeopardizing the lives of innocent bystanders as well as those who are in direct and violent disagreement with them." He acknowledges "Vital forces are at work in the Negroes' rightful attempt to gain their full constitutional recognition as Americans. Equally vital forces, and not always purely racial ones, are behind the opposition to Negro goals." He asserts "it is my sworn duty as solicitor general to uphold the law, to prosecute without fear or favor those who would violate the law. The law stands between us and chaos, no matter what our station in life, no matter what our beliefs, no matter what our race. The law is our promise that we can walk the very streets in safety . . ." He refers once more to the violent events of the previous weekend, before the clip ends; Boyd's comments are incompletely recorded.
On January 29, 1964, Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen, Jr. convened a meeting of African American and white community leaders at Atlanta city hall; he hoped to resolve heightened tensions over the partial desegregation of Atlanta restaurants and hotels, and the lack of a public accommodations law barring segregation in Atlanta. Allen's actions were prompted by a series of demonstrations organized by members of SNCC and COAHR that had elevated in intensity since December of 1963. In the four days prior to the meeting at city hall, more than three hundred people had been arrested in connection to these demonstrations. The most disruptive of these protests took place on Sunday, January 26 at segregated Leb's Restaurant in downtown Atlanta, where picketers had attracted approximately one thousand white spectators, some of whom were members of the Ku Klux Klan. Clashes between civil rights demonstrators, spectators, and restaurant personnel resulted in the injury of several demonstrators and police officers, property damages to the restaurant, and the blocking of street traffic. The Atlanta Restaurant Association placed full page ads in Atlanta papers, declaring that the city had placed too much pressure on restaurant owners to desegregate, and denied segregated establishments full protection by law enforcement when demonstrators picketed their establishments.
At the January 29 meeting, Mayor Allen requested a thirty-day moratorium on desegregation demonstrations, and upheld his support for an active federal civil rights bill to desegregate public accommodations. He announced that city police would begin to enforce the arrest of trespassers at sit-ins to accommodate restaurateurs, but that lawful picketing would be permitted and protected. Time was also allotted to Atlanta police chief Herbert Jenkins to summarize the police department's policy regarding the enforcement of laws related to public demonstrations. The mayor requested the attendance of members of the Atlanta Board of Aldermen, legislators from Fulton and DeKalb counties, members of the Summit Leadership Conference, a coordinating body for more than eighty civil rights groups in Atlanta, and representatives from SCLC, COAHR and SNCC. The meeting was also attended by members of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the Atlanta Restaurant Association. Despite Mayor Allen's efforts, the meeting accomplished little beyond demonstrating his engagement in the ongoing problem. The Chamber of Commerce and the Atlanta Restaurant Association declared that they favored voluntary desegregation rather than a public accommodations law; the elder and more conservative members of the Atlanta Summit Leadership Conference were in agreement with the mayor regarding the thirty-day "cooling off period," but the members of SCLC and SNCC refused to comply; and Allen's proposed thirty-day moratorium on demonstrations went unheeded. Six months later, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in July, Atlanta restaurants were finally required to integrate by law.
Former title read "WSB-TV newsfilm clip of mayor Ivan Allen holding a meeting about demonstrations by African Americans in Atlanta, Georgia, 1964 January 27." Research of the events in the clip determine that the date of Mayor Allen's address was January 29, 1964, and that William Boyd's statement was made on January 27, 1964.
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.
Local identification number: Clip number: wsbn46073