Atlanta is often called the cradle of the modern Civil Rights Movement. A strong infrastructure created by the organizations and businesses of “Sweet Auburn” Avenue combined with the city’s historically black colleges and universities helped establish positive change during the 1950s and 1960s.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) formed in Atlanta in 1957 to coordinate protest activities across the South. Led by Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph David Abernathy, the SCLC trained communities in the philosophy of nonviolent civil disobedience and organized voter registration drives. The SCLC’s work was instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In 1960, a group led by Morehouse students Lonnie King and Julian Bond organized sit-ins to challenge segregated public accommodations. On March 15, two hundred students entered ten Atlanta eating facilities; seventy-seven protesters were arrested that day.
In 1925, the Chamber of Commerce launched Forward Atlanta, a campaign to attract business to the city. Over 750 companies moved to Atlanta, infusing $34 million in payroll into the city’s economy.