How Leaders in Georgia Fought for Equality

A Virtual Exploration of the Civil Rights Movement


Integration of Atlanta SchoolsGeorgia Public Broadcasting

With All Deliberate Speed?

After four years of actively resisting the Brown v. Board injunction to desegregate schools, Atlanta's public school system was ruled unconstitutional by a U.S. District Court judge. In 1960, the Sibley Commission was created to determine Georgia's consensus about school integration and report back to the governor. John Sibley presented the committee's report, which recommended desegregation. In August 1961, Atlanta schools were officially desegregated (pictured). But comprehensive desegregation did not come easily to Georgia, and resistance continued from local schools to state leadership, including future governors.

Governor Lester G. MaddoxGeorgia Public Broadcasting

Born into poverty in Atlanta, Lester Maddox faced many challenges during his youth. He left high school to work full time and was employed at the Marietta Bell Bomber factory during World War II. Maddox was able to rise above his humble beginnings through entrepreneurship, eventually opening a successful restaurant.

Famously refusing to integrate his Pickrick Cafeteria, and brandishing an axe handle at those who attempted to do so, he closed his business rather than comply with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Wielding his segregationist beliefs in a campaign for governor of Georgia, he won the office in 1966. However, his administration directed with a more moderate approach than expected.

Lester Maddox, the South's Most Racist Governor?Georgia Public Broadcasting

Governor James Earl Carter Jr.Georgia Public Broadcasting

Jimmy Carter grew up in a rural community near Plains, Georgia. After attending the United States Naval Academy, he returned to run the family business and eventually found his way into state politics.

Winning the governorship in 1970 catapulted his name into national politics when Carter declared during his inaugural speech "that the time for racial discrimination is over." Within a few years, the Man from Plains became the Democratic frontrunner in the 1976 presidential election and subsequently the first American president from Georgia.

Jimmy Carter and the Civil Rights MovementGeorgia Public Broadcasting

Andrew Jackson Young Jr.Georgia Public Broadcasting

After graduating from Howard University and earning his divinity degree from Harvard, Andrew Young moved to south Georgia to serve as a pastor. He soon joined the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) and rose to become its director.

In 1972, he ran for public office and became the first African American from Georgia to be elected to Congress since Reconstruction. Young's support for Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign led to his being named ambassador to the United Nations in 1977. Returning to Atlanta in 1981, he was elected as mayor and succeeded Maynard Jackson.

Ambassador Andrew Young: A Civil Rights HeroGeorgia Public Broadcasting

Mayor Maynard JacksonGeorgia Public Broadcasting

Maynard Jackson moved to Atlanta as a young man and graduated from Morehouse College in 1956. After earning his law degree, he entered politics in 1968 and was elected mayor of Atlanta in 1973. Jackson was the first African American elected to the mayoralty of a major southern city.

Maynard Jackson served as mayor of Atlanta for three terms, expanding the city's infrastructure and tirelessly advocating for the inclusion of minority businesses in government contracts.

How Atlanta Became the City Too Busy to HateGeorgia Public Broadcasting

Congressman John LewisGeorgia Public Broadcasting

John Lewis served as the head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) until 1966 and entered politics after being appointed by President Carter to head ACTION, the federal volunteer agency. From here he was elected to the Atlanta City Council in 1981.

In 1986, Lewis was elected to represent Georgia's fifth congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives, a position he still holds today as the "conscience of the U.S. Congress."

Congressman John Lewis: A Civil Rights HeroGeorgia Public Broadcasting

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National Center for Civil and Human Rights
Jimmy carter Presidential Library

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