Georgia Tech Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts

The Legacy of Ivan Allen Jr.

Panel 6: Allen's Civil Rights Legacy

"I learned there was no middle ground in civil rights."
Ivan Allen Jr.

After defeating segregationist candidate Lester Maddox to become the mayor, Ivan Allen Jr. quickly established himself as a broadminded leader of a segregated city. On his first day in office, he ordered all "white" and "colored" signs removed from city hall, and he later desegregated the building's cafeteria. In July 1963, Allen became the only elected official in the South to testify before Congress in support of John F. Kennedy's proposed Civil Rights Bill, even though he knew his testimony would be unpopular. Before it passed, many Atlanta restaurants, hotels, swimming pools, and other public facilities had already desegregated by mutual agreement between owners and Mayor Allen. In 1966, when a riot erupted in Summerhill, Allen immediately went to the area and successfully worked with Atlanta police to restore peace in the community. When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, Allen helped arrange King's funeral. In recognition of his contributions, Allen was awarded the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation Award for achievement in urban affairs in 1974, the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize in 1981, and the Shining Light Award in 1995.

Photo Captions

(top left) Program from 1981 MLK Peace Prize. Atlanta History Center
(top right) Summerhill protestor, 1966. Atlanta Journal
(left center) Ivan Allen Jr. talking with Summerhill protestors, 1966. Atlanta History Center
(right center) Martin Luther King Jr. protesting in Vine City, Georgia. Atlanta History Center
(background) Coretta Scott King and Ivan Allen Jr. at the dinner celebrating Martin Luther King's Nobel Peace Prize. Time Inc.
Georgia Humanities Council

This project is supported by the Georgia Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities We the People initiative. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibit do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Atlanta History Center National Endowment for the Humanities We the People initiative
781 Marietta Street, Atlanta, GA 30332-0525