Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Georgia Politicians Respond to "An Appeal for Human Rights." March, 1960

Fifty years ago, Atlantans opened their newspapers to find "An Appeal for Human Rights," the manifesto that marked the beginning of the Atlanta Student Movement. The reaction to this statement on the part of local officials was swift, but the nature of the reactions varied widely. This video features the modulated response from Atlanta Mayor William Hartsfield and the very critical remarks from Georgia Governor Ernest Vandiver.
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The Southern Regional Council interviewed participants in the Atlanta Student Movement for its landmark series, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken: An Audio History of the Civil Rights Movement in Five Southern Communities and the Music of those Times. " The student leaders whom we interviewed took particular note of Governor Vandiver's comments. The remarks of these student leaders appear below.


Well, this very first statement we put in the paper, "the Appeal for Human Rights" listed a LONG list of grievances, police protection; the extension of city services; parks, and things like that. So from the very first, there was this sense that this was about more than lunch counters.


We published it on about the twelfth of March 1960 where we set forward certain things.


It caused a shock wave to go through the Atlanta community when it was published. Governor Vandiver (who was famous as, No-Not-One-Vandiver "Not-one-black-child-will-ever-enter-a- Georgia-public-school-while-I’m-governor, Vandiver"). Said, This sounds as if it had been written in Moscow, if not in Peking.


That statement was skillfully prepared. Obviously, it was not written by students. Regrettably, it had the same overtones which are usually found in anti-American propaganda pieces.


Well, all of a sudden you, I won’t say celebrity, but because it was published in the New York Times, I think. New York Times. Letters came in from student governments all over the country.

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