In this WSB newsfilm clip from April 26, 1967, an unidentified African American man criticizes Atlanta civil rights leaders for seeking publicity at the expense of community responsibilities during the 1966 Summerhill riots, proposes that young African Americans appeal to Atlanta's wealthier African Americans instead of white employers for job opportunities, and criticizes members of the African American community for not working to earn first class citizenship.
In the clip, an unidentified African American man remarks that he is "depressed with the type of situation that is going on today, especially in the Negro community." He blames African American civil rights leaders for entering communities and "starting trouble," for leaving once "trouble" begins, and for returning when news cameras cover the aftermath. Here, he may be referring to Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) chairman Stokely Carmichael, who, in September of 1966 was present during a neighborhood confrontation with Atlanta police that took place in the city's Summerhill section, though when the situation degenerated into street rioting, Carmichael had already left town. Despite expressing disapproval for Carmichael and SNCC, Atlanta's moderate African American leaders were disinclined to criticize either in the press by name. Next, the man blames Atlanta civil rights leaders for abdicating the responsibility of restoring order when demonstrations break down in African American neighborhoods. He refers specifically to the Summerhill riots as an example of failed African American leadership where, in his view, crowds were left to be appeased by Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen, Jr. He poses the question "Where are the Leroys, or the other so-called leaders that say that they are the leaders?" This is possibly a reference to Leroy Johnson, an African American state senator from Fulton County and prominent Atlanta civil rights advocate.
He proposes that activists concerned with the African American community "try to offer a program" that provides opportunities for young African American adults seeking employment instead of "depending upon the so-called 'great white father'" to give them a job. He continues by describing Atlanta as a place that is "blessed with a host of influential Negroes" who possess the financial means to do something constructive for the African American community, and believes that making an appeal to these affluent African Americans is better than "depending so on the white power structure to give them something." To further illustrate his point, he describes how he would he would be ashamed if he were given something that he didn't earn; he then criticizes members of the African American community for not working hard enough, stating "we expect something for nothing. We say we want first class citizenship, but we don't want to earn it."
Atlanta's Summerhill riots, which took place on September 6, 1966, began as a neighborhood demonstration against police brutality in the shooting of a suspected African American car thief. Tensions escalated after policemen arrested SNCC staffers for refusing to turn off a loudspeaker brought in for residents to voice their personal observations of the shooting. Angered by these arrests, the crowd reacted by throwing bottles and rocks at police. As the situation deteriorated, Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen, Jr. made attempts to appease demonstrators by climbing on top of a police car to address their demands, but he was heckled by the crowd and knocked off of the vehicle. SNCC headquarters were subsequently raided by Atlanta police, and SNCC chairman Stokely Carmichael was convicted of inciting to riot and disorderly conduct. SNCC rejected the claims against Carmichael, and asserted that the rioting was caused instead by the failure of the mayor and other city officials to address longstanding complaints about substandard housing and municipal services. Although the charges against Carmichael were ultimately overturned on appeal, Atlanta's white establishment held SNCC responsible for the violence at Summerhill, and moderate African American civil rights leaders distanced themselves from the organization. In response to the Summerhill riots, Mayor Allen and other politicians established the biracial Community Relations Commission in November of 1966 for residents of Atlanta's African American neighborhoods to communicate grievances with City Hall.
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 an unidentified African American man commenting on the need for African American leaders to help the youth of Atlanta, Georgia, 1967 April 26, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 1381, 13:21/15:29, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.