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Phase Three - Direct Action & Desegregation - 1961

January: Aided by Atlanta attorney Donald Hollowell, Atlanta students Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes desegregate the University of Georgia. White students riot in protest.

May: The Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) launches the 1960s Freedom Rides in which civil rights activists ride Trailways and Greyhound buses throughout the South to test compliance with federal interstate transportation desegregation law. During the first of these rides (May 4-15), the buses stop in Atlanta. A Morehouse College student, who joins the riders, later is brutally beaten with fists and pipes by a white mob when the buses are forced to stop near Anniston, Alabama. The second Freedom Ride (May 17-25) occurs as an act of defiance and is spearheaded by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Council (SNCC), at the time headquartered in Atlanta. By the end of the summer, in a show of support for the protests, hundreds of black and white activists have risked their lives by riding on buses through the South. Later, the Freedom Rides Coordinating Committee is established in Atlanta to guide and support this form of protest. It is composed of representatives from such organizations as the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), CORE, and SNCC.

The desegregation of Atlanta Public Schools is initiated with the enrollment of nine African American students in previously all-white public schools. This token integration does not lead to real desegregation of the Atlanta school system.

Student leaders of the Committee On Appeal For Human Rights (COAHR) filed a federal law suit against discrimination in all city-owned facilities such as parks, swimming pools, tennis courts, the municipal auditorium, and the municipal courts. On August 27, 1962, the Federal Court ruled in the students' favor.

September: The Georgia Institute of Technology desegregates voluntarily and without incident.

October: Committee on Appeal for Human Rights (COAHR) and the National Association for the Advancement for Colored People (NAACP) demand the desegregation of Grady Hospital.

John Wesley Dobbs, called “the mayor of Auburn Avenue,” dies. This pioneering civil rights activist also dubbed the African American thoroughfare “Sweet Auburn” because of the wealth of black businesses and institutions on the street.

December 10: SNCC organized a Freedom Ride from Atlanta to Albany on the Central of Georgia Railroad to test the recent ruling of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to end segregation in intrastate buses, airlines, and trains. The eight Riders were arrested. Most spent ten days in jail in Albany. The Ride was a great inspiration for the Albany Movement.