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Phase Three - Direct Action & Desegregation - 1960

January: Martin Luther King, Jr. moves back to Atlanta to join his father in the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church. He also oversees the work of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC). The “old guard” leadership of the city, including his father, asks that he not usurp the city’s existing leadership and focus his civil rights activities primarily on regional and national initiatives.

February: Disturbed by the false image of Atlanta as “a city too busy to hate,” the Atlanta Committee for Cooperative Action (ACCA), a coalition of younger African American leaders including Jesse Hill, Grace Towns Hamilton, and Whitney Young, produces a survey of conditions for black people in Atlanta called A Second Look: The Negro Citizen in Atlanta. The survey, published by the Southern Regional Council, is applauded by the “old guard” leaders.

After reading about the sit-ins by college students in Greensboro, North Carolina, Atlanta students Lonnie King, Julian Bond, Herschelle Sullivan, Carolyn Long, and others organize the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights (COAHR). Their plan is to conduct sit-ins at lunch counters in local stores. Students participate in nonviolence workshops and take an oath of nonviolence.

March: Public hearings are held in Atlanta and around the state by General Assembly Committee on Schools to gauge public opinion about school desegregation. Called the Sibley Commission because Governor Ernest Vandiver appoints John Sibley as chair, the commission recommends that Georgia’s public schools stay open and that local school systems make their own choices about whether to desegregate. The objective is to institute token integration while preserving segregation in the schools.

March 9: “An Appeal for Human Rights,” is published in the Atlanta Daily World, the Atlanta Constitution and Atlanta Journal. It is written by Students of COAHR and is eventually published in the New York Times as well. It outlines a new approach to the fight for civil rights; one that advocates direct action through sit-ins, demonstrations, and demands rather than negotiation for desegregation.

March 15: Against the advice of “old guard” leaders, over 200 Atlanta University Center (AUC) students participate in the first of many sit-ins at lunch counters and cafeterias throughout the spring and protest the lack of black employees at an A&P grocery store. Of the 200 participating students, 77 were arrested. Later a judge added the names of the eight students who signed "An Appeal ... " to the 77 arrested and charged them all with 1) breaching the peace, 2) intimidating restaurant owners, 3) refusing to leave the premises, and 4) conspiracy. The students were never tried.

April 15-17: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is established at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina.

May: On the sixth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown decision, approximately 1,500 Atlanta University Center students march to Wheat Street Baptist Church. William Holmes Borders, the pastor of Wheat Street, and Martin Luther King, Jr. speak at the rally.

July: Atlanta University Center students establish The Atlanta Inquirer as a movement newspaper because of their dissatisfaction with the conservative stance of the Atlanta Daily World. The Empire Real Estate Board and Atlanta Life Insurance remove their ads from the World and give their business to the Inquirer.

October 14-16: Students of the newly created Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) sponsor a conference at the Atlanta University Center for students from all over the country. The goal is to discuss strategy and tactics for promoting social reform. Those present include black students and white students, such as Constance Curry, director of southern programs for the National Student Association. Curry later becomes a member of SNCC.

October 19: COAHR stages the first large-scale demonstrations at downtown Atlanta’s segregated stores. Martin Luther King, Jr. and student protesters are arrested. King was sent to Reidsville Penitentiary for violating his probation for a minor traffic offense -- failure to change his license registration from Alabama to Georgia. Presidential candidate John Kennedy calls Coretta Scott King to express his support and concern. That act boosts Kennedy’s campaign.

A coalition is established between the “old guard” leaders of the movement and the student activists to combine direct action and the traditional strategies of negotiation and litigation.

The AUC students are supported by small groups of students at Emory, Agnes Scott College, and Georgia Institute of Technology, who hold their own demonstrations against segregation.