One of Atlanta’s biggest civil rights activist dies, and leaves the world to continue to grow


Teia Nash

A drawn image of Roslyn Pope.

On January 18th, 2023, Rosyln Pope, a civil rights activist that fueled changes across the area in the mid-to-late 1900s, died at the age of 84. She is best remembered as the writer of An Appeal for Human Rights, a manifesto she created as a senior at Spelman College in Atlanta. The writing stuck with people fighting for rights across the country. She is also well known for being one of the founding members of the Atlanta Student Movement.

All throughout her life, even in her younger years, Pope had been a leader. She was the class president of her high school, and was even elected to represent the state of Georgia at a national Girl Scout encampment. Of the 50 young people that attended, she was the only black girl. After that, she would go on to get a Merrill Scholarship, which would allow her to play piano abroad in Paris, France. This time spent away from the United States helped her understand life away from racial inequality. In an interview with Robert Cohen in 2016, Pope said, “I consider that year as the removal of the shackles and my budding realization that the way I had lived the past 20 years had been based on a theory that I was less than human, and that all Black people were less than human.”

The manifesto was written at a time that many viewed Atlanta as a progressive city. Pope was a senior at Spelman College. Most cities that held a large population were relatively progressive, all things considered. But Pope saw a major issue in the Georgian capital: racism. Racism in the 1960s was a lot more prevalent than it is in the present, and Pope saw the racial inequalities that the government held on the city. There were unfair laws about housing, access to healthcare, school segregation, and racist law enforcement. These laws were known as Jim Crow laws, which made it legal to enforce segregation and uphold other racist views. Many of these issues are either gone or a lot better in today’s world, and a lot of that is because of people like Pope. People who weren’t afraid to hold big corporations and the state accountable for things they were doing unfairly.

She is also well known for being one of the founding members of the Atlanta Student Movement.

An Appeal for Human Rights started the Atlanta Student Movement, which would end up breaking the laws that were put in place against black people. The manifesto would appear all across the Atlanta newspaper, and printing companies all over the country would put it out on paper as well. The New York Times and Los Angeles Times even reprinted the manifesto for free. All over the United States, the manifesto was celebrated.

The Atlanta Student Movement Project, which was the group that Pope had helped start from the manifesto, wanted to make the city of Atlanta the “city too busy to hate”. At this time, many residents of the city used that as the slogan. Pope and others had felt that was not true. How could a city be too busy to hate if it still upheld racist laws and segregation?

Pope was never the most famous leader in history, but she remains to be considered Atlanta’s “eloquent intellectual architect” of the city’s civil rights movement. Her works and her leadership helped the city, among others, grow and step away from segregation and other racist Jim Crow laws, which had hurt so many black people in their time in the United States.