Roslyn Pope, 84: Co-Author of "Appeal to Human Rights" Catalyzed Atlanta Student MovementBreaking News
tags: obituaries, civil rights, African American history, Atlanta
Roslyn Pope, who as a senior at Spelman College in Atlanta wrote a 1960 manifesto that set the stage for dramatic advances in civil rights in the city and inspired generations of activists around the country, died on Jan. 19 in Arlington, Texas. She was 84.
Spelman College confirmed the death.
The Atlanta Student Movement, of which Dr. Pope was a founding member, was one of several civil rights groups to spring up across the South in the months after a group of Black students in Greensboro, N.C., captured national attention in February 1960 with their sit-in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter.
Atlanta had a reputation as a relatively progressive place, with the unofficial designation of “the city too busy to hate.” But as Dr. Pope documented in her manifesto, which she wrote with help from Julian Bond, a future chairman of the N.A.A.C.P., Atlanta was in fact riven by racial injustices: unfair housing laws, unequal access to health care, racist law enforcement and persistent school segregation despite the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.
“Every normal being wants to walk the earth with dignity and abhors any and all proscriptions placed upon him because of race or color,” the statement read. “In essence, this is the meaning of the sit-down protests that are sweeping this nation today.”
The manifesto, entitled “An Appeal for Human Rights,” appeared in three Atlanta newspapers and was reprinted in The New York Times, The Nation and The Harvard Crimson. Senator Jacob K. Javits, Republican of New York, had it read into the Congressional Record.
In their detailed elucidation of Atlanta’s racial inequities, Dr. Pope and Mr. Bond made clear that the students rallying behind the manifesto were interested in more than just desegregating lunch counters, though they achieved that in 1961.
The document’s principles helped shape the ideas that propelled the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which had its headquarters in Atlanta, and became a template for anyone working toward racial equity in America, then and into the 21st century.
“Its impact and significance lie in the fact that the areas that students focused on in the appeal, back in 1960, are of enduring relevance,” Tomiko Brown-Nagin, a historian at Harvard and the author of “Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement” (2011), said in a phone interview.