Georgia Historical Society to Dedicate New Civil Rights Trail Historical Marker to Savannah Protest Movement

Savannah, Ga., September 21, 2016 – The Georgia Historical Society will dedicate a new historical marker this Friday, September 23, in Savannah.  The Marker will commemorate the Savannah Protest Movement, a pivotal event in the Civil Rights Movement in Georgia.

The Savannah Protest Movement historical marker tells the story of the struggle to end segregation in Savannah, led by African-American students and community leaders in the early 1960s.

“The Civil Rights movement is a watershed event in American history and at the heart of the American story,” said Dr. Todd Groce, President and CEO of the Georgia Historical Society. “Recognizing the Savannah Protest Movement and the people and events that led to desegregation in Georgia’s First City is a testament to what the human spirit can achieve under even the most difficult of circumstances.”

“The Georgia Historical Society is honored to partner with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Hodge Foundation and Savannah College of Art and Design to bring this marker to a wider audience in the place where history was made,” Dr. Groce said.

The Georgia Historical Society established the Georgia Civil Rights trail to recognize sites and people associated with the Civil Rights Movement.  By visiting these sites across Georgia the Civil Rights Trail invites audiences to stand on the ground where the struggles and events of the Civil Rights Movement took place.

Speakers for the event will include Dr. Groce; Carolyn Quilloin Coleman, and Joan Tyson Hall, two of the first students arrested in Savannah; former Mayor Edna Jackson, Paula Wallace, President of SCAD, and former Mayor Otis Johnson. There will also be an exhibition performance by SCAD alumnus Masud Olufani.

The events will begin at 10:00 a.m. with Visionary Voices, a program inside The Trustees Theater, 216 East Broughton Street in Savannah, followed immediately by the marker unveiling across Broughton street at SCAD’s Jen Library, former site of Levy’s department store.  This event is free and open to the public but seating is limited so attendees are encouraged to arrive early.

The Georgia Civil Rights Trail: The Savannah Protest Movement

On March 16, 1960, black students led by the NAACP Youth Council staged sit-ins at white-only lunch counters in eight downtown stores. Three students, Carolyn Quilloin, Ernest Robinson, and Joan Tyson, were arrested in the Azalea Room here at Levy’s Department Store (now SCAD’s Jen Library). In response, African-American leaders W.W. Law, Hosea Williams, and Eugene Gadsden organized a nearly complete boycott of city businesses and led voter registration drives that helped elect a moderate city government led by Mayor Malcolm Maclean. Sit-ins and the boycott continued until October 1961, when Savannah repealed its ordinance requiring segregated lunch counters. The boycott continued until all facilities were desegregated in October 1963, eight months before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. declared Savannah the most desegregated city south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Erected by the Georgia Historical Society, the Georgia Department of Economic Development, The Hodge Foundation, and Savannah College of Art and Design