By Cheryl Oestreicher, Project Archivist, Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History
In 1970, Mayor Sam Massell appointed Andrew Young to chair the Atlanta Community Relations Commission (CRC), replacing Reverend Samuel Williams. Formed in 1966, the CRC served as a liaison between African-American residents and City Hall, primarily to address incidents of discrimination. As a seasoned leader in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Civil Rights Movement, Young was a natural fit for this position.
Under Young’s leadership, the CRC worked on issues including housing, school desegregation, minority hiring and promotion, community-police relations, and juvenile delinquency, working with residents in neighborhoods including Summerhill, West End, Cascade-Beecher, Southwest Atlanta, East Lake, Adamsville, Bankhead-Bolton, and Pittsburgh. Notably, the CRC conducted “Town Hall Meetings” in various neighborhoods to hear residents’ concerns, take them to city officials and departments, returning to each neighborhood thirty days later to report on actions taken, thereby creating continuous discussions where residents’ saw results from their voiced concerns.
As one of the functions of the CRC was to “foster mutual understanding, tolerance, and respect among all economic, social, religious, and ethnic groups,” they held a “Town Hall Meeting” between “straights” and “hippies” after the influx of “hippies” in the Tight Squeeze area of the Tenth Street neighborhood, now Midtown. These talks led to actions about employment, juveniles, and particular meetings between residents, “hip leaders,” and the Police Department to address concerns about drug use and sales.
Through his work with CRC, Young met many neighborhood leaders, helping him to establish solid relationships with the people in Atlanta. In addition to the changes in the 5th district boundaries, Young credits his work with CRC for his victorious Congressional campaign in 1972.
Above: Brochure of the Community Relations Commission, circa 1970.
The Andrew J. Young Papers are currently closed to researchers and are expected to be open in late 2010. The Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History is the first library of its kind in the southeast offering specialized reference and archival collections for the study and research of African cultures. For more information visit our website.
"Working for Freedom: Documenting Civil Rights Organizations" is a collaborative project between Emory University, the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, and the Robert W. Woodruff Library of Atlanta University Center to uncover and make available previously hidden collections documenting the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta and New Orleans. The project is administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources with funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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