Marker Monday: Atlanta Student Movement

This week’s #MarkerMonday discusses the Atlanta Student Movement historical marker in commemoration of Black History Month. This marker can be found between Morehouse College, Spellman College, and Clark Atlanta University (formerly Atlanta University and Clark College), in Downtown Atlanta. As part of the Georgia Civil Rights Trail, this marker invites people to stand on the ground where struggles and events took place, so they may build and cultivate a deeper understanding of the past and its relevance to the present. Students from the three colleges surrounding the marker, along with students from the Interdenominational Theological Center and Morris Brown College, rallied together to form a non-violent protest against Jim Crow.

Georgia Historical Society’s President and CEO Dr. W. Todd Groce and Mr. Lonnie King unveil the Atlanta Student Movement historical marker.
Image Credit: Horace Henry

Three students from Morehouse College, Lonnie King, Joseph Pierce, and Julian Bond, met at Yates and Milton Drugstore after being inspired by a student sit-in in Greensboro, North Carolina. They planned to organize a coalition between the students of the six historically black institutions in Atlanta to desegregate local businesses, public parks, and other federal, state, and local facilities. The Atlanta Student Movement, led first by An Appeal for Human Rights, written by Spelman College student body president Roslyn Pope, continued on March 15, 1960, with about 200 students participating in the peaceful sit-ins at local restaurants. Seventy-seven of the students were arrested for their participation, but the students continued to protest for the right to use the same facilities as the white community members.

As sit-ins and protests persisted in the following months, businesses began to close in order to force protesters and other customers to leave. This brought economic stress and by the end of the 1960 holiday season businesses were ready to negotiate. In October 1961 the efforts finally led to the desegregation of lunch counters in Atlanta, inspiring students across the state and nation to participate in the wider Civil Rights Movement. In 1964, the United States Supreme Court case Katzenbach v. McClung struck down racial discrimination in restaurants as unconstitutional.

Explore the links below to learn more:

Full Marker Text

Georgia Civil Rights Trail

Atlanta Student Movement

New Georgia Encyclopedia— Student Movements of the 1960s

Atlanta Magazine, “The Atlanta Student Movement: A Look Back”