My Part of the World: ADW Has a Long History in The Struggle for Civil Rights

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    OK, so Paul Delaney, one of the founding members of the National Association of Black Journalists and a former Atlanta Daily World reporter, was right on one count about black newspapers not covering the civil rights movement.

    On CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Aug. 25, he said “black papers, of course, did not have the resources, the money, the staff to adequately cover the movement. They did the best they could.”

    On this point, I agree. In reference to his time as a reporter for ADW, he said, “The Atlanta Daily World was against the movement … The owners were part of the black establishment …they, in coordination with the downtown power structure, wanted to keep Atlanta cool.”

    Granted I was 11 in 1960 when Delaney was a reporter, so I can’t rebut his comments, but I do think he mischaracterized the ADW position. It wasn’t that the ADW was against the civil rights movement. On the contrary, from its beginnings it challenged Jim Crow segregation laws. It was more that the ADW publisher was against the massive street movement for civil rights, particularly by young college-age students.

    From its beginnings 85 years ago, ADW pushed for equality: equal pay for black vs. white teachers; desegregation of buses and access to public parks, among other unjust laws. The difference is that it did all this through its support of lawsuits in the court system. The paper clearly stated its belief that segregation was unconstitutional.

    Now, Paul went on to say that, “Yes, [ADW] was against the movement, very strongly against the movement. They thought the youngsters would upset the apple cart that they had planted in Atlanta.”

    OK, Paul, I’ll give you this angle. In retrospect, it was clear that there was a generational and philosophical shift afoot. My great uncle C.A. Scott was more a contemporary of M. L. King Sr. aka Daddy King, than of MLK Jr. And it was well reported by the street committee that Daddy King didn’t want his son coming into Atlanta making trouble. It was old guard versus new guard. The black and white old guard worked together to accomplish many things like hiring the first black police officers in 1948, desegregating the public schools in 1961 and the court abolishment of the county unit system that led to the election of Leroy Johnson to the state senate in 1962 — making him the first African American to serve in the state legislature since 1907.

    But the young folk who led the student movement – including Julian Bond and Lonnie King of Morehouse College – had no patience for the slow pace of the justice system. They wanted change, too, and they wanted it now.

    And finally, there was one other important color involved. It was the color green. White businesses were embarrassed by the protests. They didn’t want the boycotts, sit-ins and ugly confrontations to tarnish the reputation of Atlanta as the “city too busy to hate.”

    So, some of these businesses put pressure on ADW to curtail the students via threat of pulling their advertising. This put my great uncle in between a rock and a hard place. He came down on the side of not siding with the young folk, a moral dilemma, much like the one faced by President John F. Kennedy highlighted in this week’s “Race in America” segment. C.A. needed his advertisers and Kennedy needed the Southern Democrats (or Dixiecrats as they came to be known) to get re-elected.

    So it’s really a complicated story. I’ve known and admired Paul Delaney and his career since I was a kid. And I can assure you that ADW has a long history of support for equal rights and civil rights. The evolution of the movement continues and so does ADW’s dedication to shedding truth and light about our struggle for freedom and justice for all.

     

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