In 1951 Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, then President of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, was, was already one of the most prominent African American educators in the United States. He influenced hundreds of young African Americans who came under his tutelage including undergraduate students at Morehouse College, Martin Luther King, and Julian Bond. On June 27, 1951, Dr. Mays addressed the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People which met that year in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. Mays’s hometown. His remarks appear below.
I feel I am qualified to speak on the emerging new south. I was born and reared in the south and excepting eight years in college and university in the east and west, I have lived here. I consider Washington, D.C. south. So when I speak of the south, I speak from years of vicarious living. In speaking of the new south, we should make it clear that there is no brand new south, that a new south is in the process of emerging, and that some parts of the south are newer than other parts of the south; some parts of the south more decent and more civilized than other parts of the south. One cannot generalize about the south any more than one can generalize about the north. What a Negro can say and do in one section of the south, and get away with it, he would probably be run out of the town and possibly killed or even lynched, if said and done in another section of the south. There is no over-all picture that fits the south. A northern Negro coming into the south for the first time, or one who has not known the south for a long time may be so surprised that things are as good as they are that he may return to the more secure north thinking that the new south has already arrived. On the other hand, another man of color from the north may run into an experience so shocking, so embarrassing and so nazi-like that he may return to the north thinking that absolutely no progress has been made in the south, in the area of human relations, in the last quarter of a century.