Black History is American History: Remembering Atlanta’s Maynard Jackson

By Marc Morial
President & CEO, National Urban League

As former mayor of New Orleans (and son of the city’s first Black mayor – Ernest “Dutch” Morial), I personally know the challenges that were overcome and the history that was made by our nation’s first generation of Black mayors – their significant contributions and their legacies of leadership.

In 1974, Maynard Jackson made history as the first Black mayor of a major southern city – Atlanta, Georgia. This week’s Black History Month profile recognizes Mayor Jackson for utilizing his three terms in office to create meaningful change in opportunities and representation for people of color. A child prodigy, he finished high school at age 14 and completed a degree from Morehouse College at 18 – later earning a law degree and starting a career as a lawyer and politician.

Jackson advocated for African American entrepreneurs and small businesses by encouraging them to apply for municipal contracts. He successfully boosted the number of city contracts awarded to minority businesses from a dismal 1 percent to 35 percent. He also successfully reformed Atlanta Police Department’s record of racial profiling and mistreatment into a more accountable and just police force, with increased opportunities for African American police officers.

Jackson’s name is memorialized in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which he undertook as a special project to modernize and rebuild a new terminal, with the help of minority contractors. More than 5,000 people mourned his death in 2003 at the Atlanta Civic Center and many others paid their respects at city hall and his alma mater, Morehouse College.

As we remember him today, let’s continue to honor and build upon his legacy of representation, inclusion, and lasting change for tomorrow!

Read more about Maynard Jackson.