Timeline of the Movement

Atlanta Student Movement Timeline
Committee on Appeal for Human Rights (COAHR)
by Lonnie King Jr.

Developed for the City of Atlanta Student Movement Commission, 2013

February 1, 1960 — Four young students at North Carolina A&T conducted their first sit-in demonstration.

February 3rd, 1960, Lonnie King confers with Joseph Pierce and Julian Bond regarding organizing a Student Movement in the Atlanta University Center. All agree to organize a movement in the Atlanta University Center.

February 5, 1960, first meeting of prospective movement participants met in Sale Hall Annex at Morehouse College. Approximately 15 students attended. The attendees were predominately Morehouse Men, however, James Felder, President of Clark College Student Government attended representing Clark College.

February 12, 1960, Lincoln's birthday, was set as the date of the first sit-in. Unable to get a sufficient number of students to participate, the initial sit-in was re-scheduled for February 19th.

February 17, 1960, Lonnie King, Julian Bond et al, were summoned to a 3:00 P. M. meeting in the conference room of the Council of College Presidents in Harkness Hall for a meeting with the six college presidents. All college presidents were in attendance, along with elected student government leaders from the six Atlanta University Center schools.

The presidents spoke in turn and expressed their opinions of the proposed sit-in movement which they had heard was forming in Atlanta. Dr. Clement, president of Atlanta University spoke first. He was followed by Dr. Mays of Morehouse, Dr. Manley of Spelman and Dr. Brawley of Clark. All four men discouraged students from participating in the movement. They argued students should focus on their class work and let the NAACP fight the racial battle. However, when Dr. Brawley of Clark spoke, he asserted that he would be embarrassed if the students staged sit-ins in downtown department stores.

The next speaker was Dr. Harry V. Richardson of ITC. He hesitated for approximately 10 seconds before he spoke up. When he did speak, he shocked all by stating that the students were right in challenging segregation directly. He related that he was a highly educated man, president of a college, but because he was a Negro he also could only eat at segregated lunch counters in downtown Atlanta. The next speaker was Dr. Frank Cunningham of Morris Brown College. He strongly backed up Dr. Richardson and re-iterated his support for the student movement that was sweeping the South. These latter comments apparently caught Dr. Clement off guard. However, before he spoke as chairman of the Council, he asked who would speak for the students. At that point, Lonnie King spoke up and argued that the time had come for the Negro community to come together and end segregation in the Atlanta.

At this conclusion of King's speech, it was suggested by Dr. Rufus Clement that prior to any demonstrations, a manifesto should be written expressing to the Atlanta Community and the world what the grievances of the students were. Clement suggested that it should be a full page advertisement which should be placed in the daily newspapers. (The Atlanta Constitution, the Atlanta Journal, and the Atlanta Daily World ). Dr. Clement agreed to raise the necessary monies.

Lonnie King appointed Rosalyn Pope as editor, and included Morris Dillard, Albert Brinson, Julian Bond, and Charles Black to assist her.

Lonnie King, Charles Black, Don Clarke, James Felder, Mary Ann Smith, Marian Wright, Johnny Parham, John Mack, Otis Moss, Gwendolyn Middlebrooks, Albert Brinson, Norma June Wilson, Ruby Doris Smith, Benjamin Brown, Lydia Tucker, Robert Felder, James Wilborn, A.D. King, and others began organizing for the first sit-in. A.D. King recommended that the first sit-in be conducted on March 15, 1960. He referenced "Beware the Ides of March" as the basis for his suggestion. (Note: This was the date 44 B. C. when Julius Caesar was assassinated. It was noted in Roman history as a fateful date). The students voted to not tell the presidents about the sit-ins beforehand because if state officials threatened the tax-exempt status of the school, the presidents would have plausible deniability.

The presidents and the student leaders met each week until May of 1960 for updates, etc.

March 3, and 4, 1960, Dr. Lonnie Cross leads his class to sit-in at Rich's. They were served the first day, but refused on the second.

March 5th — Lonnie King meets with Dr. Clement to get his support for a coordinated, centralized effort amongst the various student bodies regarding the staging of the sit-ins.

March 6, Dr. Clement calls a meeting at Ware Hall of all Atlanta University students to discuss coordinated efforts. Lonnie King and Dr. Clement make presentation for a coordinated effort that includes representatives of all institutions. Dr. Cross, who was in the meeting, objected to this approach. He clashed with Dr. Clement on this point to his detriment.

March 7, 1960, Pope informs Lonnie King that she has not received any help from the other members of the drafting committee except Julian Bond who provided data from A Second Look. King requested that she complete the document because it was due for review by the Council of College Presidents on March 8, 1960.

March 8, 1960, the student leaders met with the presidents and presented An Appeal for Human Rights. The document was reviewed and, with minor adjustments, approved for publication. Dr. Clement had raised $12,000 for the publication of the advertisement. He reported that the ads would cost $4000 [equal to $31,00 in 2012]. He stated he would keep the remaining $8000.00 in a separate account at Atlanta University for future use by the Student Movement.

March 9, 1960 — An Appeal or Human Rights appears in the three daily papers as a full-page advertisement.

March 10, 1960 — the Governor of Georgia, Ernest Vandiver condemns the Appeal, citing that it was well crafted, but no college student in Georgia could have written it. He contended that it must have been written in Moscow. Mayor Hartsfield was more temperate and praised the Appeal as "a message of great importance to Atlanta."

On or about March 12th, Senator Jacob Javits of New York inserts the Appeal in the Congressional Record and the New York Times published the Appeal as a full-page advertisement for free. On April 2, 1960, the Nation magazine published the Appeal as a full-page Advertisement.

March 10, 1960 — small group of students from AUC attend My Fair Lady performance at Municipal Auditorium. Spelman attendees were J. Preston Cochrane and Lenora Taitt. From Clark were: William Ves Harper, a drama professor, James Murray, Robert (Tex) Felder, and Henry Chavers. A young white professor at Spelman had purchased the tickets for the "white orchestra section." There appearance flustered the attendant who then summoned the manager.

March 15, 1960, students from all six institutions, at precisely 11:00 AM, attempted sit-ins at restaurants located in tax-supported institutions. Peachtree 7th St. Bldg, Greyhound Bus Station, Trail ways Bus Station, Atlanta City Hall, Fulton County, and the State Capitol.

77 students were arrested. The thrust of this effort was to obtain a "test-case" for prosecution by NAACP lawyers.

March 16, 1960, representatives from the six affiliated instirutions meet to form the Committee on Appeal for Human Right (COAHR). The student leaders agree that there should be three members from each institution, and the institution from which the Chairperson is selected could have four members. The original committee follows:

Lonnie King was elected as Chairman, John Mack from Atlanta University is elected as Co-Chairman, Benjamin Brown is elected as Treasurer, and Mary Ann Smith is elected as Secretary. Following is a listing of the representatives of the respective institutions: Atlanta University: John Mack, Johnny Parham, and Willie Mays; Clark: James Felder, Benjamin Brown and Lydia Tucker; Morehouse: Donald Clarke, Albert Brinson, and Julian Bond ; Morris Brown: William Hickson, MaryAnn Smith, Robert Schley; ITC: Otis Moss, James Wilborn, Marion Bennett; Spelman: Marian Wright, Josephine Jackson, Roslyn Pope.

On or about May 1, 1960, Dr. Clement insists to Lonnie King that all whites be removed from the Movement. He feared that some were Communists. Lonnie King refuses his demand and Dr. Clement withdraws his support by ordering Lonnie King to find some other place to hold meetings.

May 2nd, 1960, Lonnie King meets with Dr. L.M. Tobin, pastor of Providence Baptist Church, seeking his approval to move the headquarters of the Movement to the basement of his church. He agrees, but on the condition that "you cannot stay too long."

On or about May 3rd, 1960, the Movement relocates to Providence Baptist Church.

On or about May 10th, 1960, COAHR call for a May 17th, 1960, march on the Georgia State Capital honoring the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.

May 15th, Lonnie King, speaking at the Georgia State NAACP Convention being held at Morehouse College, announces that COAHR was sponsoring the march on May 17th.

May 16th, 1960, The Atlanta Newspapers publish the proposed march for the 17th.

May 17th, 1960, President Mays attempts to stop the march, citing the possibility of violence. Lonnie King disagreed respectfully and March proceeded. Approximately 3600 students participated in the march.

May 18th, 1960, Governor announces he is having the State Attorney General investigate the tax-exempt status of the six Atlanta University schools.

June 2, 1960, The Student-Adult Liaison Committee is organized. Reverend William Holmes Borders is elected Chairman and Lonnie King is elected Co-Chairman. Mr. John Calhoun was elected Secretary and Mrs. Nina King Miller is elected as Treasurer.

Early June, 1960, COAHR moves to 197 Auburn Avenue for the summer.

Core COAHR staff begins planning for boycott of Rich's Depart Store and downtown Atlanta.

June 24, 1960, Lonnie King, Carolyn Long, Dr. Howard Zinn, Mrs. Zinn, and their daughter attempt to dine in Rich's Magnolia Room, to no avail. No one was arrested, but Lonnie King is taken to police station for a meeting in Chief Herbert Jenkins office. When Lonnie King arrives, he is ushered into Chief Jenkins' conference room, where Dick Rich is waiting. Rich argues that he is a "liberal" and that he has been very benevolent to causes in the Negro community. He further states that he does not like being singled out for sit-ins.

Rich threatens Lonnie King with jail if he brings his "black ass" back to his store again seeking to be served in any one of his restaurants. King informed him that he would be back in the fall and would bring hundreds of students with him. At that point Rich stormed out of the meeting.

The COAHR begins plans for the "Fall Campaign."

June, 1960, the student newsletter The Student Movement and You is published, with 20,000 copies distributed each Sunday at Negro churches.

June, 1960, weekly meetings were held throughout Atlanta between COAHR representatives and community representatives discussing why there was a need to boycott Rich's and downtown Atlanta.

Last week of June, 1960, Mr. Kossuth Hill meets with Lonnie King and offers to establish a new newspaper, named The Atlanta Inquirer.

July 31, 1960, first issue of Inquirer is published. Students make up most of the staff. The first editor was William Strong. The "grunt" work of the newspaper was borne by Julian Bond, James Gibson, John Gibson, Charlayne Hunter, Eddie Billips, and J. Lowell Ware.

August 3rd, Atlanta sit-in case is filed in federal court against city, county and the state of Georgia. This was the first case to be filed in the sit-in movement. Filed by A. T. Walden and Donald Hollowell.

COAHR held weekly meeting with a large number of community groups throughout the summer in all sections of town.

Gladys Knight and the PIPs presented concerts throughout the summer to push the movement.

On or about August 8th, 1960, Kneel-In Campaign begins at several white churches.

Late August, 1960, Lonnie King requests Martin Luther King to accompany the students and be arrested voluntarily for the first time. The rationale for the request was that the presidential election of 1960 between Richard Nixon And John Kennedy was being conducted and the issue of Civil Rights was never being discussed, especially the activities of the 70,000 Negro college students in the South who were defying segregation laws by sitting in and demanding freedom now. Lonnie King explained to Dr. King that his arrest would place the Sit-In Movement on the agenda of the presidential campaign throughout the nation and the world. Dr. King agreed to join the students on October 19th, 1960.

Lonnie explained that the plan must be approved by COAHR's Executive Committee in September.

September, 1960, COAHR meets and approves massive demonstrations, beginning on October 19th, 1960, with Martin Luther King Jr., accompanying them.

October 18th, Lonnie King asks Herschelle Sullivan who had just returned to Spelman in September after spending a year in France to call Dr. King and tell him to meet me at the Rich's Cafi on the Bridge at Rich's. Lonnie King did not make the call at the time because he was speaking to Spelman students who were assembling for the next day's activities.

A few minutes later, Ms. Sullivan returned stating that Dr. King was not coming due to a previous arrest in DeKalb County when he was driving on an expired tag. At the time he and his wife Coretta were taking Lillian Smith to the airport after having dinner. Lonnie King told Herschelle to continue the meeting with the Spelman ladies and he would go and speak to Dr. King. As background, Lonnie King had been a member of the Ebenezer Baptist Church since April of 1945, and had known Dr. King and his family very well.

When Lonnie King got Dr. King on the telephone, he asked why had he changed his mind? On the telephone, through extensions, were "Daddy King." Wyatt T. Walker, et al. Daddy King tried to carry the conversation, but Lonnie King ignored him and spoke directly to Dr. King Jr. He reminded Dr. King that Atlanta was his home and he could not lead this movement from the back. He had to lead it from the front. Dr. King agreed and told Lonnie King that he would meet him the next morning on the Bridge at 10:00 AM (Further documentation can be found in a recently published book by Jeff Clemmons entitled Rich's: A Southern Institution.

October 19th, 1960, several hundred students staged sit-ins throughout Atlanta with a large number of arrests. Students vowed: "Jail-no-Bail." Dr. King was in the crowd and was arrested. Author Clemmons explains thoroughly what happened after the arrest in his aforementioned book on Rich's.

October 22, COAHR calls a truce to demonstrations at the request of Mayor Hartsfield, who wanted 30 days to attempt a settlement between the students and downtown merchants,

October 23, 1960, students released [from jail] as result of "truce" arranged by Mayor Hartsfield.

Martin Luther King Jr. not released and was jailed in Dekalb County for violating a previous court-order.

October, 1960, Freedom Christmas Cards went on sale. These cards were developed by COAHR and netted $4700.00 profit for the Movement.

On November 25, 1960, students resumed their protests resumed protests. Over 200 students sat-in and picketed at Rich's, Davison's, Woolworth's, two Walgreen's drug stores, two H.L. Green stores, and several Lane-Rexall Stores, as well as W.T. Grant, McCrory, Newberry, and Kress five-and-dine stores.

November 26, 1960, a large number of adults joined the picket lines with the students. This was the first time the "old Guard" Negro leaders had joined with the younger Negro Leaders to fight the segregation battle.

The Ku Klux Klan staged a counter picket line urging continued segregation of the races. They came from throughout the Southeastern United States to Atlanta to stop the desegregation movement. They asserted to an Atlanta Police undercover agent that they came to Atlanta because if segregation fell in Atlanta, it would fall throughout the South due to Atlanta's strategic location and prominence.

On or about December 7th, 1960, COAHR members, along with Maurice Pennington of the Atlanta nquirer, embarked on a bus trip to test the Boynton v Virginia, a case which outlawed interstate segregation on busses. They sent teams to Birmingham, Alabama, Jacksonville, Florida, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Columbia, SC. Several students and Mr. Pennington were arrested.

December 11, 1960, at 6:00 AM, in the rain, 8,000 Negroes assembled in a mass meeting at Herndon Stadium in the rain to show their support for the Movement and the boycott. They subsequently marched to Hurt Park for another rally.

December 11, 1960, bomb exploded at Negro elementary school (English Avenue).

On or about January 15, 1961, COAHR approved a winter campaign that was to begin on February 1, 1961. Lonnie King announced an extension of the Christmas Boycott to run through the Easter season on February 1, 1961.

February 7, 1961, 17 students were arrested for violating the Anti-Trespass Laws of the State of Georgia. This was the beginning of the winter campaign.

March 6th, 1961, Lonnie King, Herschelle Sullivan are asked by Jesse Hill to come to a secret urgent meeting at the Chamber of Commerce. The meeting had been arranged by A.T. Walden and Ivan Allen Jr. Purpose of the meeting was to get a written agreement to end the boycott, and integrate the lunch-counters. King and Sullivan had no knowledge of what the meeting was about until they entered the room. The result was a signed agreement to end lunch counter segregation in over 300 eating establishments in Atlanta and the re-hiring of approximately 500 to 600 Negro employees who had been fired during the sit-in campaign. This was the first time that any white group in the South had signed an agreement to end segregation in any area.

March 10, 1961, mass meeting held at Warren Memorial with over 2000 people in attendance. Purpose: To challenge the agreement made on March 6, 1961.

Martin Luther King Jr. saves the agreement with the most eloquent speech of his life.

April, 1961, COAHR files law suit pro se, seeking immediate desegregation of all recreational centers, parks, swimming pools, and end to segregated seating in all courtrooms, local, state and federal. Plaintiff: Benjamin Brown, Herschelle Sullivan, and Lonnie King.

April, 1961, COAHR begins campaign to end segregation in movie theaters in Atlanta.

April, 1961, COAHR conducts a city-wide voter registration campaign and registers 5000 new Negro voters.

September 27, 1961, over 300 lunch counters and restaurants are desegregated.

October, 1962, COAHR steps up desegregation efforts of movie theaters.

Theater owners agree to end segregation with opening of Metropolitan Opera in April of 1962.

December, 1962, Mayor Ivan Allen builds wall on Peyton Road to keep Negroes out of Peyton Forrest area where white citizens lived.

COAHR challenged his action along with other Negro citizens. A law suit was filed and won that ordered the removal of the wall. (Note: Former Mayor Hartsfield later told Mayor Allen never make a mistake that can be photographed).

January, 1962, COAHR joins with Dr. Roy Bell and challenges segregation at Grady Hospital.

Successfully filed law suit against Grady Hospital, citing violation of Hill-Burton Act.

COAHR challenged segregation at the Pic-Ric and Leb's between 1962 and 1964. Both establishments refused to integrate until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.