Lonnie C. King Jr., one of three Morehouse College student organizers of the Atlanta Student Movement in 1960, died on Tuesday, March 5 at the age of 82. Murray Brothers Funeral Home will handle King’s funeral, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Derek and I were fortunate to count Lonnie King Jr. as an extended family member and dear friend,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. “On behalf of our entire family, we extend our deepest condolences to the King family during this difficult time. Lonnie left an indelible mark on the legacy of both Atlanta and the Civil Rights movement. His life was one of inspiration, one that was committed to the fight for tolerance, equality and fairness. Lonnie used his days to their fullest and will be sorely missed.”

In a statement, Atlanta City Council member Andrea Boone said King “left an indelible mark on our city as an activist and founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and leader of the Committee on the Appeal for Human Rights.”

City Councilmember Michael Julian Bond, whose father worked with King to plan nonviolent demonstrations during the Civil Rights era, paid his respects to King, calling him “a great leader, mentor, teacher, and friend.”

“We have lost one of the greatest, yet most woefully unsung Civil Rights giants of his generation,” Bond said. “He will be sorely missed by myself and my family.”

The Atlanta Student Movement began with three Morehouse College students—King, Joseph Pierce, and Julian Bond—meeting at the Yates and Milton Drug Store in Atlanta, GA on February 3, 1960. Together, the trio recruited other Atlanta University Center students to follow in the footsteps of the sit-ins occurring concurrently in Greensboro, North Carolina.

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. The document appeared as a full-page paid advertisement in the Atlanta Constitution, and shortly after was published in several other newspapers.

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.

“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.”

Causing uproar all over the nation, the students received an overwhelming amount of support letters and monetary donations. 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 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. 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.

An agreement was signed on March 6, 1961, to end lunch counter segregation in over 300 eating establishments in Atlanta, and the re-hire of approximately 500 to 600 African-American employees who had been fired during the sit-in campaign.

In 2012, King gave an oral history interview to the Civil Rights Movement Veterans, which they published in part on their website.

“During my tenure, the students from the six Historically Black Colleges in Atlanta worked as a coalition to successfully challenge segregation and discrimination in lunch counters, churches, movie theaters, courthouses, parks and recreation centers, and co-organized The Atlanta Inquirer newspaper, along with Mr. Kusset Hill, then-owner of Hill Office Supplies,” he said. “In pursuing our objectives, we employed sit-ins, kneel-ins, jail-no-bail, filed a lawsuit that integrated all recreational places in the city, with the exception of the golf courses, which had been desegregated previously via court order.

He added, “As we pursued our objectives, we engaged in non-violent civil disobedience and even though we were battered, beaten, spat on, hit in the head by working-class whites, and had acid thrown in our face; we never fought back. We knew that the time had come to rid America of the racism that imbued the moral fiber of the South and had permanently subordinated Negroes as the “other” without any rights.”

The Atlanta Voice reporter Alysha Conner contributed to this report.

 

 

Dr. Lonnie King, recipient, President's Lifetime Achievement Award for Volunteer Service, speaks during the ServiceWorks Launch event at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights on July 24, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Ben Rose/Getty Images for ServiceWorks)

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