Carolyn Long Banks

Civil rights activist Carolyn Long Banks, the first Black woman to serve on the Atlanta City Council, has died.

Current City Council members Michael Julian Bond and Andrea L. Boone announced Banks’ passing in a press release.

Banks, 82, 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.

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.

“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,” Bond said.

“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.

Before her tenure on council, Banks was appointed by then-Governor 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. 

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Collin KelleyEditor

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.