Interview with Emma Darnell

Could you speak about the development of the affirmative action program? What was your share in that?


The affirmative action program, ah, for the city of Atlanta which, ah, we developed under the direction of Mayor Jackson in 1974, ah, actually started with that first conference that I held with the mayor on the day that I was appointed. Ah, he said only one thing to me that day with respect to what he wanted done. He said words to this effect, "Emma, I want Black people brought into this government. I want Black people to have an opportunity to participate in not only the personnel operation with jobs, but in the, in the purchasing and the procurement operation." And of course, this was new. I had served, ah, in the administration of the outgoing mayor, Sam Massell, who was the first mayor who hit hard on affirmative action with respect to jobs. In fact, most people don't understand that really in terms of quotas, Sam Massell had higher quotas than Maynard Jackson because he said fifty percent of all department heads, ah, should be, ah, of minorities, should be Blacks. But in any case, ah, the, the, the function of affirmative action was, ah, was, affirmative action was a strategy. We looked at it primarily as a goal. And the goal was to stop the historic practice in the government of the city of Atlanta of excluding people from jobs, meaningful jobs, excluding people from, ah, contracts and the opportunity to participate in procurement operation for no other reason than the color of their skin. That was the purpose of affirmative action. It had no other meaning except that.