Interview with Emma Darnell

So how did you, as commissioner of administrative services, execute this policy of affirmative action?


Once it was clear to me that it was the policy of the mayor and the city council of Atlanta that we take positive steps not to discuss discrimination and to talk about it, but to eliminate and eradicate discrimination from the government, and to open up the government so that every person qualified would have an opportunity to participate, ah, I really began to take the kinds of steps that you would normally take in a business organization, ah, when you have goals to accomplish. First, I tried to find the, the strongest, most competent persons, ah, that were available to provide leadership in both the contract compliance area as well as in the affirmative action area. We did so. We were very fortunate in, ah, identifying, ah, it happened to be women in both instances, women who, ah, had the technical knowledge, ah, and had the personal integrity necessary in order to do this work. This was not your, ah, usual, run-of-the-mill, ah, ah, bureaucratic task. Ah. It required not only a knowledge of the law but it required, ah, as I've indicated earlier, the kind of integrity that was necessary in order to, ah, not, having collected the data, having enough guts and courage to make a decision on the basis of the data. Ah, then the next thing that we did in order to make this program successful was we established and maintained very strong linkages, ah, with the community. It is extremely important in the implementation of policy of this kind, ah, that the community, ah, and, yes, the Black community is, is, is knowledgeable about what is being done, how it's going to be done. I think we make a mistake, ah, in the implementation of, and we did make mistakes during this period, in the implementation of these policies about assuming you know, a paternalistic attitude which says we know, we know what we're doing and we'll tell them later what we're doing. I spoke at 32 churches a year. I spoke at 20 high schools a year. I spoke to, ah, Morehouse and Nohouse[SIC]. I spoke to White and Black, ah, business and non-business segments of the community, ah, because We were, for all practical purposes, engaged in a revolution. We knew that that's what it was. It was still the civil rights revolution. Those persons during the sixties laid down their lives and died to put us into these positions of power. We did not consider these positions of power to be ins in and of themselves**. We were to continue the revolution until, ah, we, ah, had accomplished the goal. So the steps that we took were, many of them, the kinds of, ah, sound management steps that are taken in order to accomplish a task. But there were political tasks that had to be done. People have to know what you're doing and how you're doing it. And, ah, that consumed a large amount of my own personal time.