ATLVault: Five Black Atlanta pastors and the U.S. Supreme Court
The Heart of Atlanta Supreme Court decision stands among the court’s most significant civil rights rulings
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - The Heart of Atlanta Supreme Court decision stands among the court’s most significant civil rights rulings.
In Atlanta, two arch segregationists vowed to flout the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the sweeping slate of civil rights reforms just signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
The Pickrick restaurant was run by Lester Maddox, who would eventually become governor of Georgia. The other, the Heart of Atlanta motel, was operated by lawyer Moreton Rolleston Jr.
After the law was signed, a group of ministry students showed up for a plate of skillet-fried chicken at Maddox’s diner. At the Heart of Atlanta, the ministers reserved rooms and walked to the front desk. Maddox greeted them with a pistol, axe handles, and a mob of White supporters. Rolleston refused to accept the Black patrons.
These confrontations became the centerpiece of the nation’s first two legal challenges to the Civil Rights Act.
Ronnie Greene is the author of “Heart of Atlanta: Five Black Pastors and the Supreme Court Victory for Integration.”
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