Roslyn Pope, Founding Member of The Atlanta Student Movement, Dies at 84

The Atlanta Student Movement, of whom Roslyn Pope was a founding member, was one of several civil rights groups 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.

Back then, Atlanta had a reputation as a relatively progressive place. But as Pope documented in her widely-read manifesto, which she wrote with help from well-known activist, Julian Bond, a future chairman of the N.A.A.C.P., Atlanta was marred 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 manifesto 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, Boston Globe reports. 

Pope and 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 are largely responsible for shaping 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.

Pope was born on Oct. 29, 1938, in Atlanta. Her cause of death, which Spelman confirmed, is unknown.