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The Color of Money

Follow-ups and reaction

Atlanta NAACP calls for boycott,
federal probe of banks

By Bill Dedman, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published May 10, 1988, Page A1

Copyright 1988, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta chapter of the NAACP called Monday for a boycott and federal investigation of white-owned Atlanta banks and savings and loans.

The statement, accusing the financial institutions of "wicked practices," was issued by chapter President Julian Bond and Executive Secretary Narvis Grier. They said it was prompted by disclosures last week in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that these lenders rarely make home loans in black or integrated neighborhoods, whatever the income.

Officials at Atlanta's largest banks responded by urging calm, denying any intentional discrimination and promising improved efforts to serve black communities.

"The Atlanta Branch NAACP deplores the redlining of black Atlanta by local banks and savings and loan associations," the statement said. "We call upon local, state and federal officials to move swiftly and surely to prohibit racist banking practices in the future and ask that public funds be withdrawn from any institution whose services deliberately exclude whole sections of the public solely because of their race.

"We intend to ask each financial institution to make a public, enforceable covenant that it will end racial lending and will begin an aggressive drive to serve all of the public.

"Until there is some satisfactory resolution of this crisis, we ask our members and supporters to withdraw their funds from banks which practice discrimination, and to invest them instead in institutions which serve everyone equally.

"These wicked practices exposed skillfully by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution should be condemned by everyone. Their effect is nothing less than the purposeful destruction of black Atlanta, the tightening of the white noose around the center city, and a cheapening of the hopes and dreams of generations of hard-working citizens. It must end."

In an interview from Washington, D.C., Bond said his statement applied to every white-owned bank and savings and loan in Atlanta.

"That was the intent," Bond said. "There doesn't seem to be much difference among them."

He said the NAACP maintains accounts at Citizens and Southern Bank (C&S) and the black-owned Citizens Trust Bank, but would soon close its C&S account.

Bank officials urged black customers not to overreact.

"I would hope that the bank customers would pause and think about that," said C&S spokesman Dallas Lee. "The feeling among many bankers is one of missed opportunities, so these customers are going to be seeing more aggressive competition for their business in the near future. C&S intends to compete for more market share in all Atlanta neighborhoods. It's going to move beyond business as usual, and I think that will be clear very shortly."

At Trust Company Bank, officials said the NAACP statement should not apply to them.

"Our position is that we do not discriminate in the extension of credit on the basis of race," said Wade T. Mitchell, executive vice president. "The development of the city and neighborhoods and society in general may reflect a different result, but I can assure you there is no discrimination on the basis of race. We are not a bank that discriminates. All you've got to do is come into our main office and sit and watch for about 30 minutes, and you tell me if we discriminate.

"As for an all-out effort to do more business with blacks, that may be entirely appropriate," Mitchell said, "We have had numerous conversations about how our marketing efforts work; we have not resolved to do anything differently at this point. But the thing we're being rapped for is discriminating, and we're not doing that."

Mitchell said Trust Company continues to discuss with other lenders a pool of low-interest mortgage money, and an announcement may occur soon.

While the local NAACP statement called for a boycott "until" the lending records change, NAACP Regional Director Earl Shinhoster continues to say a boycott would be appropriate "if" the records don't change.


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