The Atlanta Student Movement was formed between February and March 1960 in Atlanta by students of the campuses Atlanta University Center (AUC). It was led by the Committee on the Appeal for Human Rights (COAHR) and was part of the Civil Rights Movement.
On February 5, 1960 Lonnie King and Julian Bond discussed the idea of following in the foot steps of the Greensboro sit-ins with the idea to organize similar actions in Atlanta. King, Bond and fellow members of the All-University Student Leadership Group were soon summoned to a meeting with the presidents of all six Atlanta University Center (AUC) colleges. In an attempt to lessen the likeliehood of immediate direct action (such as organizing Sit-ins), the AUC challenged the students to instead write a document outlining their position.
The students, while considering the proposal of the creation of a document a delaying tactic, did begin work on such a document. King, Bond, Roslyn Pope, Herschelle Sullivan, Carolyn Long, Frank Smith, Joseph Pierce, among others students formed formed a committee that drafted an appeal to describe both their complaints as well as their desired goals for proposed change. This Committee on Appeal for Human Rights drafted An Appeal for Human Rights, which was originally published on March 9, 1960. The Appeal focused on putting an end to the unjust system of racial segregation that was present in every aspect of their society—something the students would simply no longer stand by and accept. The students considered it to be the right time for change, and considered the changes they desired achievable by nonviolent means.
Within six days of the publication of An Appeal for Human Rights, the students began the Atlanta Student Movement sit-ins on March 15, 1960, which were an integral part of the 1960s sit-in movement of the Civil Rights Movement. Following in the footsteps of the Greensboro sit-ins, the Atlanta sit-ins were chosen as a form of protest "not only because it was commensurate with the religious roots of Southern Negroes, but also because it was more likely to gain allies among a section of the dominant white majority".
A sit in organised by the Atlanta Student Movement on October 19, 1960 "led to the well-publicised arrest of Dr. King".
The Atlanta Student Movement greatly impacted both racial tensions in Atlanta and nationally. According to Bond, the sit-ins saw '"black property owners put up bond which probably amounted to $100,000" to get sit-in demonstrators released from jail'. The sit-ins also helped to engage American youth, bringing a younger generation of leaders to the fore and [generating] intense press coverage". In mainstream news, an ABC programme showed Atlanta "as the city where, in the programmes title, 'It Can Be Done', referring to the city's reputation for inter-racial cooperation".
Overall, the "disruption caused by sit-ins" organised by the Atlanta Student Movement "inspired the effort to desegregate peacefully", as well as aiding in creating "a political crisis for candidates during the presidential election campaign".
The original work on An Appeal for Human Rights begun by members of the Atlanta Student Movement continues into the present, with periodic reviews in 2000, and 2010. These include the 40th Anniversary An Appeal for Human Rights v.II, 2010 - An Appeal for Human Rights vIII) by means of a review, reflection, and revision process by original members of COAHR.
Along with the lasting social effects that the Movement brought about, a more tangible legacy can be found near the West End of Atlanta, where Atlanta Student Movement Boulevard (formerly Fair Street) cuts through campus of Clark Atlanta University. The street was named as such in a dedication ceremony on November 1, 2010, hosted by Kasim Reed, the Mayor of Atlanta.
On May 16, 2017, 'A New Appeal for Human Rights' was released. Echoing the sentiments of the 1960's Appeal for Human Rights, the document highlights the importance of recognising 'human rights as universal and inalienable, as well as indivisible and interdependent'.
Dr Lonnie King, Chairman of the Atlanta Student Movement of 1960-1961 said that the document 'clearly illustrates that the quest for a 'just' society continues to this day'.
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