My parents generally seemed to teach and live values of equality of all people, but I’m sure that they probably grew up in an environment where some racism was considered acceptable. I know that I heard racist jokes from one of my grandfathers a few times when we visited his home, but I don’t think I ever repeated those jokes. Also, growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I was always around people of color as I would see them at the school I attended, as customers in the places where I worked as a teenager, and around the community. They always seemed to receive the same respect and the same service as white customers. So, I can honestly say that I never saw very much of racism growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta when I was a boy. That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t there, but if it was prevalent or widespread, most likely I would have seen evidence of it at one time or another.
In fact, I remember that Atlanta elected their first black mayor in 1974, the first large southern city to do so. I think in those days that the population of Atlanta was about evenly split between the number of black residents and the number of white. So, for Jackson to be elected, there would have necessarily been many white citizens that voted for him. Additionally, his victory in 1974 was over the incumbent, Atlanta’s first Jewish mayor, Sam Massell, whose election was also a sign that Atlanta was a progressive city. Jackson had first entered politics in 1968, motivated by the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. His first political race was for a United States Senate seat, and he was running against a very powerful and popular politician, Herman Talmadge. So, his loss was far less about racial politics and more about the widespread name recognition and political clout of his opponent against a little known challenger who was new to politics. Moreover, even though Jackson lost that race, he received about 200,000 votes statewide, roughly a third of the vote, and he carried the city of Atlanta by a wide margin, signifying that he had garnered a fair amount of white votes.
One of the surprising things about Jackson’s run for the Senate seat was that he received support from many white farmers throughout the state by making a populist appeal to the common folk. But the mere fact that he received so many white votes throughout the state was a good indicator that racial attitudes were changing in the “New South.” Also, “he described his campaign as successful because he wanted to energize Georgia's African American electorate to take advantage of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965.” After that election, seeing how well he had done in getting the vote of Atlanta citizens, he decided to run for vice-mayor in 1969, a race which He won by getting a third of the white vote and 99 percent of the black vote. On January 5, 1970, he was sworn in as Atlanta’s first black vice mayor. Then, three years later, he would launch his campaign for mayor, defeating Massell and becoming, at the age of 35, the first black mayor of a major southern city. This victory was groundbreaking and gave other blacks around the south courage and motivation to run for political offices throughout the South.
Have a great day. I pray that God blesses you with a strong sense of His loving presence throughout this day.