A 1988 Report from the Southern Regional Council

A 1988 Report from the Southern Regional Council

By Staff

Vol. 10, No. 6, 1988, pp. 14-15

EDITORS’NOTE: The following material is excerpted from the 1988 Annual Report of the Southern Regional Council. The report outlines past and present activities of the SRC in five key areas: voting rights, labor and the workplace, civil and criminal justice, education, and information and the exchange of ideas. The report is sent to SRC members and associate members. Others may obtain a copy by writing to Steve Suitts, executive director, SRC, 60 Walton Street, NW, Atlanta, GA 30303. Membership information for joining the Council is found on page 23 of this issue of Southern Changes.

For more than four decades the Southern Regional Council has promoted democracy and opportunity for all people of the South and beyond. The Council’s staff carries out research, provides technical assistance, develops educational and experimental programs, and brings together Southerners of good will to address important regional issues. We seek to engage both public policy and personal conscience.

Through its 120 members and a small staff, the Council has become perhaps the nation’s premier regional organization. No group knows a region better nor has been more consistently effective in it. The Council is the South’s oldest interracial organization. SRC members usually include major public officials, college presidents and noted educators, labor and business leaders, community organizers, civil rights leaders, and others. As a Council of local, state, regional, and national leaders–men and women, black, Hispanic and white–who live across eleven Southern states, the organization keeps up-to-date on changing problems and opportunities. Over time, SRC has developed several institutional strengths accounting for its longevity and effectiveness. These strengths emanate from:

* our capacity for data collection and analysis, aided by developing accessible technologies;

* our network of diverse leaders and activists who help to identify issues, opportunities, and trends and to understand practically how to address these in the region;

* our ability to focus public attention and media coverage in the South on issues and developments;

* our understanding of decision-making processes and how information actually shapes and influences those decisions;

* our institutional memory about the region, its people, and its places.

Before the Southern Regional Council moved from its former headquarters at 5 Forsyth Street in Atlanta, Gunnar Myrdal revisited some of the organizations then still occupying the old structure, which was slated to be torn down. “This,” Myrdal told a New York Times reporter, “is where it all began.” “Where what began?” he was asked. “Why the New South, young man,” he replied, “the brand

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new American South.”

The opinions of others echoed the same sentiment. Newspaperman Ralph McGill (one of SRC’s founders) said, “I think of that old wreck as a sanctuary for renegades who insist on telling the truth.”

“Sooner or later,” Julian Bond said, “the people who work there figure in most of what is important to the South and much of what is important to the nation.”

Of course, not everyone agreed: “The whole place is crawling with subversives,” charged former segregationist governor Lester Maddox.

“As a result of their efforts,” the Times concluded, “schools and a variety of other institutions have been integrated, a million black people registered to vote, elections won and lost, white politicians tempered, and popular racial traditions challenged and changed.”

Many of the Council’s original objectives have been achieved, but its work continues to be vital to the South and the nation. Indeed, the very achievement of many goals has had the ironic effect of disguising new ways in which opportunities are blunted, the disadvantaged abused, and democracy denied.

Now, as in the past, the Council’s teak is to provide research, information, and technical assistance to individuals and groups who are able to bring positive change, and to provide forums for Southerners of good will to think and act together.

In a new era aptly called the “Age of Information,” the Council is uniquely suited to help shape the region’s future–and the nation’s–for the better.