Georgia (US State)
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The Civil Rights Movement

Martin Luther King Jr. moved back to Atlanta in 1960. Independently, black college students began lunch-counter sitins in southern cities, leading to the creation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), also headquartered in Atlanta. In 1962, the SCLC unsuccessfully battled segregation in Albany; the campaign taught activists the importance of national media attention. They got plenty in the Birmingham campaign, which helped win President John Kennedy's support for the movement. King's "I Have a Dream" speech electrified the March on Washington on 28 August 1963. Often at odds, SCLC and SNCC both participated in the climactic 1965 voting-rights campaign in Selma, Alabama, with many Georgians, including Atlanta's Hosea Williams, in the lead.

Atlanta's white leaders, eager to look progressive, tried to stave off racial conflict and bad publicity, whether they believed in the movement or not. Mayors William B. Hartsfield and Ivan Allen Jr. worked with black leaders to make the transition to desegregation. Atlanta's Georgia Institute of Technology quietly integrated in fall 1961, the first public university in the South to do so without court order. Local tensions ran high, though. When King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, Atlanta's stunned elite reluctantly hosted a biracial banquet in his honor.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (outlawing segregation) and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (ensuring voting rights) revolutionized Georgia society and politics, but change outside Atlanta proved slow. Black voters soon liberalized Georgia's Democratic Party. Civil rights stalwarts Julian Bond and Andrew Young of Atlanta won election to state and national offices. Maynard Jackson became Atlanta's first black mayor in 1974.

Angry white Democrats, mostly rural and working-class, sent archsegregationist Lester Maddox to the governor's mansion in 1966; Atlanta's leaders cringed. Maddox was Georgia's last openly racist governor. Many white-supremacy Democrats defected to Georgia's Republican Party, which included suburban conservatives who viewed race as a secondary issue. Other Democrats, notably Jimmy Carter, forged biracial coalitions with populist undertones. These coalitions made him governor of Georgia in 1970 and president in 1976.

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