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Week of Activities Celebrate 50th Anniversary of the Atlanta Student Movement


(March 15, 2010) -- Johnny Parham ’58 shook his head as he looked at Harkness Hall on Monday, March 15.

He remembered back precisely 50 years ago – to March 15, 1960 – when the building, then part of the Morehouse campus, was to be the meeting point for Atlanta University Center students, fed up with racial discrimination and segregation. Parham and the four other group leaders’ plan: a day-long, coordinated series of protest marches around Atlanta.

“We frankly feared that perhaps we were the only ones who would show up,” he said. “But then, the first to arrive was a group of students from Morris Brown College, professionally attired. They were soon followed by other students from throughout the Atlanta University Center. And we then knew that the revolution had begun.”

It kicked off the Atlanta Student Movement, in which students from Morehouse, Spelman, Morris Brown, Clark Atlanta (then Clark College and Atlanta University) and the Interdenominational Theological Center stood up against racism and helped ignite the Southern student sit-in movement.

Monday, Parham, Lonnie King ’69 and other student leaders gathered at Clark Atlanta University to begin a week of commemorating the start of that movement 50 years ago.

The week’s activities include a talk with movement participants; a discussion between the presidents of Clark Atlanta, Morehouse, Spelman College, Morris Brown College and the Interdenominational Theological Seminary moderated by Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman; a workshop on how the 1960 student movement came together and how current students can address their current issues; and a proclamation ceremony with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. Lonnie King will also be the
keynote speaker at Crown Forum on Thursday, March 18, in the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel.

Lonnie King, who went on to become the first chairman of the Student Non-
Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), led the students who were initially told by AUC presidents at an earlier meeting in 1960 that they should leave the protests to groups like the NAACP. But the marches went forward, though the students also wrote “Appeal for Human Rights,” which was published in newspapers across the country.

“Young people all over the South, approximately 70,000, stood up and said, ’We are not going to take it anymore,’” King said.

Added Judge Brenda Cole, a former Miss Maroon and White while she was a student at Spelman: “But the work is not done. We are not here to just celebrate, but basically to have a call to action for today’s young people and pass the baton to them. We will assist them in deciding on the problems that are still with us today and help figure out ways of addressing those problems.”

For more information on the week’s activities, go to

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