Black Lives Matter: A Reflection of 401 Years of Struggle

On September 6, 1966 an uprising involving several thousand people occurred in the Summerhill neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia after Atlanta police shot Harold Prather, an innocent, unarmed black man.

While we felt urgency to offer words of support to our community, we paused before making a public statement about the current crisis, reminded that while we might feel compelled to simply express outrage, our greatest responsibility is to commit to substantive change that will make our city—and our institution—more just and inclusive.

Atlanta History Center has a mission to connect people history and culture. In a city, state, region, and nation that has an undeniable history of racial division and inequity, we recognize that our mission is as urgent now as it has ever been. We know that the recent targeted, systemic violence against African Americans does not exist in a vacuum, but is the latest of 401 years of struggle to create an equitable and just nation for all.

The recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are inexcusable. And they are the latest in a pattern of racial violence that has pushed our community to a painful and dangerous precipice.

However difficult the past is, we must face it to understand our present, and plan a better future. Our past cannot be fully understood without examining the history of racism and institutionalized discrimination in the United States. Our future cannot be fully realized without tangible steps to build diverse and mutually-respectful institutions—and Atlanta History Center is no exception.

We will redouble our efforts to share the stories of all Atlantans to cultivate not only knowledge, but empathy and understanding. Outside of our walls, Atlanta History Center is committed to working in our neighborhoods as we are called upon, facilitating dialogue, and providing resources for education. Inside of our organization, we are also committed to do the work we need to do in order to deliver our mission to our Atlanta community.

These words are no panacea. But we believe they are necessary for us to create a clear and sturdy foundation for the hard work we must do to create positive change. We urge all members of our Atlanta History Center family to educate themselves about the lessons our past can offer and to participate in making our community a safe and equitable home for all.

“We are the ones we have been waiting for.”