At the former site of Yates and Milton Drug Store, presently known as the Clark Atlanta University student center, where the initial meeting of the Atlanta Student Movement took place, a marker has been placed to acknowledge and capsulate the significant time in history.
As a tangible legacy of the noble strides executed by students of the Atlanta University Center (AUC) in 1960, the street that cuts through the campus of Clark Atlanta University has been renamed to Atlanta Student Movement Blvd.
Formerly known as Fair Street, a ceremony hosted by former Mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed, was held on November 1, 2010, to dedicate the renaming of the street to Atlanta Student Movement Blvd.
The Atlanta Student Movement began with three Morehouse College students—Lonnie King, Joseph Pierce, and Julian Bond meeting at the Yates and Milton Drug Store in Atlanta, GA on February 3, 1960.
They met to discuss orchestrating demonstrations in Atlanta similar to the sit-ins constructed by students from North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, North Carolina. King, Pierce, and Bond arranged a meeting to further recruit students from all of the schools of the AUC: Atlanta University, Clark College, Morehouse College, Morris Brown College, and Spelman College.
On February 5, 1960, the meeting was held at Sale Hall Annex at Morehouse College. Approximately 15 students were in attendance.
Though attendees were predominately Morehouse men, the president of Clark College’s student government at the time, James Felder, was present in representation of Clark College.
On March 9, 1960, AUC students established An Appeal for Human Rights as a student manifesto advocating for equality, justice, and desegregation in Atlanta for African Americans.
Roslyn Pope, a Spelman College student, was appointed as the editor of The Appeal, along with Lonnie King, Julian Bond, Herschelle Sullivan, Carolyn Long, and Morris Dillard as contributors.
The document appeared as a full-page paid advertisement in the Atlanta Constitution, and shortly after was published in several other newspapers.
“We want to state clearly and unequivocally that we cannot tolerate, in a nation professing democracy and among people professing Christianity, the discriminatory conditions under which the Negro is living today in Atlanta, Georgia supposedly one of the most progressive cities in the South,” they wrote.
“If a Negro is hungry, his hunger must wait until he comes to a ‘colored’ restaurant, and even his thirst must await its quenching at a ‘colored’ water fountain,” also read the appeal.
The Appeal focused on seven areas: education, jobs, housing, voting, hospitals, law enforcement and access to facilities such as movie theaters, concert halls, and restaurants.
Causing uproar all over the nation, the students received an overwhelming amount of support letters and monetary donations.
William Hartsfield, former Mayor of Atlanta, praised the AUC students, calling the Appeal “a message of great importance to Atlanta.”
Less than a week after the Appeal for Human Rights was released, the first initial sit-ins began.
AUC students organized the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights (COAHR), in order to help with the planning of protest demonstrations, and communicating their goals.
The original committee consisted of Lonnie King as chairman, John Mack from Atlanta University as co-chairman, Benjamin Brown as treasurer, and Mary Ann Smith as secretary. As a request made by COAHR, participants were required to sign an oath of non-violence.
At around 11 a.m. on March 15, 1960, approximately 200 students from all six institutions protested at restaurants located in tax-supported institutions, including the cafeterias at the State Capitol, City Hall, and Fulton County Courthouse. Julian Bond was arrested at City Hall. Ultimately, 77 students were arrested.
Sit-ins and arrests continued sporadically throughout the spring of 1960. Black businesses and institutions throughout Atlanta exhibited support towards the students and their movement.
For instance, employees from Atlanta Life Insurance Company were allocated time off to participate in picket lines.
Restaurants surrounding the AUC, such as Paschal’s and Frazier’s Cafe Society, also supported the students’ movement by serving as meeting places for the students, bringing food to picketers, and owners paying the students’ bail.
On October 19, 1960, several hundred students staged sit-ins throughout Atlanta, resulting in a large number of arrests.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. joined the movement by accompanying the students during the sit-ins and getting arrested as well.
Students arrested as a result of the sit-in took a vow of “jail no bail,” as they continued their protest behind bars.
Eventually, COAHR called a truce at the request of Hartsfield, who wanted 30 days to attempt a settlement between the students and downtown merchants.
On October 23, 1960 students were released from jail. Students resumed their protests on November 25, 1960. However, nonviolent protestors were met by a group of Ku Klux Klan members from throughout the Southeastern United States to Atlanta, who wanted to stop the desegregation movement.
An agreement was signed on March 6, 1961, to end lunch counter segregation in over 300 eating establishments in Atlanta, and the re-hire approximately 500 to 600 African American employees who had been fired during the sit-in campaign.
This marked the first-ever agreement to be signed by any white group in the South to end segregation in any area.
More than 300 lunch counters and restaurants were desegregated on September 27, 1961.
After COAHR administered their campaign to end segregation in movie theaters in Atlanta April of 1961, theater owners finally agreed to end segregation in April of 1962.
Many of the Atlanta Student Movement leaders went on to play a role in the national civil rights movement. Julian Bond eventually became communications director of SNCC, and later served in the Georgia House of Representatives.