Rights center an Atlanta milestone
By Geri Thomas
The recent opening of the Center for Civil and Human Rights is the latest chapter in Atlanta’s history of evolving and reinventing itself.
The city’s narrative is one of struggle, resurgence and renewal. We as Atlantans refuse to stand still — and for more than a century we have continually improved our relationships with each other and our community.
The Civil War left Atlanta in ashes. The city rebuilt itself and emerged stronger, earning its association with the mythological phoenix.
A hundred years later, when inequality surfaced as an issue that could no longer be tolerated, Atlanta stood at the forefront of social change and became a rallying point for the civil rights movement, led by a native son, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Atlanta emerged as “the city too busy to hate” and became a more-inclusive community. The 1970s saw the city’s first black mayor in Maynard Jackson, as we solidified our position as the Southern gateway to the nation and the world.
Atlanta hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics and established itself as an international city.
Centennial Olympic Park and Pemberton Place stand at the center of a world-class city and are home to popular tourist attractions, including CNN Center, World of Coca-Cola, Georgia Aquarium, and now the Center for Civil and Human Rights.
The new center interjects conversation and a sense of history into the heart of the city. It is a figurative link to King, while the Atlanta Streetcar will give it a literal link to King’s legacy celebrated at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.
In so many ways, the center signifies what Atlanta has become: a metropolis that walks the talk about equality, diversity and opportunity for everyone. The center reflects this in its vision to harness “Atlanta’s legacy of civil rights to strengthen the worldwide movement for human rights.”
To accomplish that, the center will help educate people on how they can play a role in ensuring the rights of everyone.
Many years ago, Atlanta leaders chose to support civil rights. Because of this, Atlanta grew to become the leader of the South’s major metro areas.
Now, the center is going a step beyond, by taking the lessons of our past and exploring solutions to address human rights around the world.
Geri Thomas is the Georgia and Atlanta market president for Bank of America. She is also the company’s chief diversity officer.