ATLANTA — City Council members Michael Julian Bond and Andrea L. Boone announced tonight (April 12) the passing of Carolyn Long Banks, acclaimed civil rights activist and the first Black woman to serve on the Atlanta City Council.
At the time of her passing, she was surrounded by her family.
“Our community has lost a true trailblazer. Carolyn Long Banks will forever be known as a catalyst for extraordinary change in our city and across the nation. This is a somber moment for us all and I send my deepest condolences to her family. Throughout her life, she had an unwavering commitment toward social and economic justice. Her legacy with the Atlanta Student Movement and the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights will always serve as an inspiration. As the first Black woman to serve on our august body, she left an indelible mark on the community as an advocate for equality and opportunity,” Bond said. “She is an instrumental part of our city’s history and gave back in so many ways, including counseling first-time elected officials. Her leadership skills spanned beyond serving on the City Council. She was also part of the Atlanta Business League, the NAACP, and the YWCA Women of Achievement Academy, just to name a few. She was like a surrogate mother to me all of my life and a tremendous mentor to me in my public career. Her children, April and James, are some of my oldest and dearest friends. Her soul will continue to shine brightly in the divine presence of God and her impact will live on in the hearts and minds of all those who were fortunate enough to know her. She was a true public servant, a warrior woman like the Greek goddess Minerva, and now like that goddess, she has taken her place amongst the stars.”
Boone championed Long Banks as a civil rights hero who broke barriers.
“My heartfelt condolences are with the family of Carolyn Long Banks. She was a remarkable woman who had a truly astounding impact on our community. As we mourn her passing, let us remember her legacy as a civil rights hero and as the first Black woman to serve on the City Council. She broke barriers and was a role model for leadership and social change. Let us keep her family in our prayers as we all seek comfort and peace during this time of mourning,” Boone said.
Banks was a fourth generation Atlantan and a well-known political and civil rights leader. She graduated from Henry McNeil Turner High School, Clark College and Georgia State University. She was one of the organizers of the Atlanta Student Movement. As the first Black woman to serve on the Council, she represented the city from 1980 to 1997. Early in life, she gained experienced in the Atlanta Student Movement and in 1960, she participated in the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights. She worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the committee to create a manifesto that outlined the problems facing the Black community. In 1962, she was invited by Rich’s to integrate the Magnolia Room and would later be one of the first Black women in a management position at Rich’s.
She was appointed by Gov. Jimmy Carter to the Commission on Women. She also served as president of the National League of Cities and held leadership positions in numerous local and national organizations. On the national level, she joined President Bill Clinton at the White House for the signing of his first piece of legislation, the Family Medical Leave Act. She was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, an active member of St. Paul of the Cross Catholic Church, and a lifetime member of the NAACP. She also led delegations to many foreign countries, leaving a legacy of service that spanned the world.