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GSA unveils civil rights plaque at Atlanta federal center, site of Dr. King’s first arrest for nonviolent protest

Group of five people in business attire standing in front of a tiled wall with a placard in-between them

Photo Caption: Rev. Otis Moss, Former Acting Chairman, Atlanta Student Movement; Denise Turner Roth, GSA Administrator; Mike Mandel, Mural Artist; Lonnie King, Founding Chairman, Atlanta Student Movement;  and Naomi Ruth Barber King (representing the ML King Jr. Family)

Atlanta, GA.-- The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) today unveiled a plaque commemorating the Atlanta Student Movement’s (ASM) protest on October 19, 1960 to desegregate the Rich’s Department Store-- now site of the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center. The 10:00 am unveiling ceremony was hosted in partnership with ASM’s founding president Lonnie King and the City of Atlanta, and featured remarks by King, GSA Administrator Denise Turner-Roth, Atlanta City Council President Ceaser Mitchell, civil rights activist Rev. Otis Moss, Rich’s Foundation head Tom Asher and other distinguished guests.

“We at GSA see democracy in action everyday in the offices, courtrooms and corridors we provide for federal agencies to fulfill their missions," said Administrator Roth. "It gives us a great sense of pride to honor those who helped make democracy a reality for all. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the heroes of the Atlanta Student Movement helped pave the way for the America we know and appreciate today.”

"This plaque commemorates an important moment in history when young men and women chose to defy the odds and fight for what is right," said Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. "Their actions opened new doors for all of us in Atlanta and nationwide. We must never forget that we stand on the shoulders of giants.”


GSA produces and installs interpretive plaques for artwork within federal buildings and courthouses around the country as part of the agency’s Fine Arts Program.  

The “Right to Sit” interpretive plaque is designed to commemorate the historic connection between the events surrounding the Atlanta Student Movement and the Rich’s Department Store in October 1960.  The plaque amplifies the existing 2-story tile mosaic mural “Sitting Down at Rich’s” in the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center. The award-winning mural fashioned by artist Mike Mandel depicts Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Lonnie King and Atlanta Student Movement protestors picketing at the Rich’s building for equality, justice and an end to racial segregation in Atlanta.  The October 19, 1960 protest at Rich’s marks Dr. King’s first arrest for an act of civil disobedience and stands as a seminal event in the American Civil Rights Movement.

The City of Atlanta purchased the downtown Atlanta Rich’s Department Store-- which closed in 1991-- and subsequently leased the building to GSA in 1993 to renovate and construct a federal office building.  GSA houses 21 federal agencies, nearly 5000 employees and a federal child care center in the facility, now known as the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center.  

The mission of U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is to deliver the best value in real estate, acquisition and technology services to the government and the American people. As the real estate and procurement arm of the federal government, GSA is a driver of innovation, technology, sustainability and economic development in cities and communities across the nation.

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