The Committee on Appeal for Human Rights (COAHR) organized and conducted several successful boycotts. Following the arrest of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others in October, the focus of the Fall campaign of 1960 was the boycott of major downtown merchants such as Rich’s Department Store and Woolworth’s. Atlantans were encouraged to shop elsewhere, particularly during the lucrative holiday shopping months.
Downtown merchants, led by Dick Rich of Rich’s Department Store, did enter into conversations with Mayor William B. Hartsfield in an effort to end the boycott, but because they refused to fully desegregate their facilities, the students would not relent. It was not until March 7, 1961 that an agreement was announced, but it was reached by the merchants and older Atlanta businessmen, without the participation of students. In the agreement, desegregation of the stores would occur only after Atlanta city schools were desegregated in Fall 1961.
The students and their allies were angry. Over 2,000 people came together to discuss the agreement on March 10, 1961, at Warren Memorial Church. The meeting was contentious. It was only after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. rose to speak and plead for both sides to respect the agreement, that the crowd was calmed. On August 30, 1961, Atlanta schools were peacefully integrated. Within days, downtown stores were too.
More immediate success was found in the boycotts of Colonial and A&P food stores. A few African Americans were employed at these stores, but only in the most menial positions, with no opportunity for advancement. Boycotts of individual stores resulted in the quick hire of cashiers and skilled positions, such as butchers.