In this WSB newsfilm clip from Atlanta, Georgia, dated June 15, 1967, Les McCann, an African American YMCA member from California, describes his experience being turned away by the downtown Atlanta YMCA because the club had not integrated; McCann and SNCC members including Stokely Carmichael protest the downtown Atlanta YMCA facilities; and a downtown Atlanta YMCA spokesperson explains the institution's segregation policy.
The clip begins with three silent shots. The first is of Les McCann, an African American jazz musician and resident of Hollywood, California, reading a written document, surrounded by members of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee(SNCC), who organized a protest against the club after it refused to let McCann use its facilities.
The next shot is of the facade of the downtown Atlanta YMCA building; this is followed by a shot of McCann from behind, standing amidst the same group of people. The next shot opens with sound; here, Les McCann, standing with a small group of SNCC members, describes how staff at the downtown Atlanta YMCA refused to honor his YMCA membership. He recalls his arrival at the club on Tuesday morning, where he visited the membership office and presented his membership card. He was then denied services by a member of the YMCA staff, who informed him that the club was not integrated. He expresses surprise and disbelief at being denied service by an organization representing Christianity.
In several silent shots that follow, McCann speaks to a small group of SNCC members, which includes SNCC leader Stokely Carmichael; next, he opens up his wallet, pulls out his YMCA membership card and presents it to the camera. In the next shot, McCann and Carmichael light his membership card on fire in front of the YMCA building entrance. In two more silent shots, a white spokesperson from the downtown Atlanta YMCA speaks to a reporter in front of the YMCA building; this is followed by a closeup shot of the letters "YMCA" on the building's facade. Next, in a shot containing an audio track, the same YMCA representative defends the club's segregation policy to a reporter by stating that there is already a very large membership for a very limited facility.
On June 15, 1967, SNCC organized a news conference with African American musician Les McCann to protest the segregation of Atlanta's downtown YMCA facility. McCann, a resident of California, and a California YMCA member, was denied access to the downtown Atlanta YMCA on Tuesday, June 13, 1967. Although the YMCA's national board had established a policy of integration in 1946, the desegregation of YMCA facilities was controlled at the local level, and implemented in varying degrees and timelines. As late as 1968, twenty local YMCA affiliates still practiced segregation. Administrators at the downtown Atlanta YMCA asserted that their facility was a private organization, and therefore not subject to national policies on integration.
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 a protest against segregation at a YMCA while an official tries to explain policy, Atlanta, Georgia, 1967 June 15, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 1388, 21:53/23:07, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.