August 23

Desegregation in Atlanta

August 23, 1961 - Atlanta

When four African Americans came to Atlanta’s Bitsy Grant Tennis Center on this day in 1961, they found a sign waiting for them: closed for repairs.

White Atlantans fiercely resisted desegregating the city’s parks, pools, and golf courses. City buses had always been contested terrain but Atlanta’s recreational facilities had by long custom been “whites only.” But in 1961, with the Freedom Riders making national headlines—civil rights leaders in Atlanta decided to test the city’s claim that its facilities were no longer segregated. So the four black players came to play tennis. They found the courts full of white players, one of whom was Georgia Tech football coach Bobby Dodd. When the four went to sign up for a court, a hastily arranged “closed for repairs” sign hung on the door. The four young tennis players had made their point.

Over the next two years the federal courts would desegregate all of Atlanta’s recreation facilities—with the help of four black tennis players on August 23, 1961, Today in Georgia History.