Fulton County Juvenile Court Reading and Enrichment Program, 1977

By Sarah Quigley, Project Archivist, Southern Christian Leadership Conference records, MARBL

“Working for Freedom: Documenting Civil Rights Organizations” is a collaborative project between Emory University's Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library, The Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, The Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, and The Robert W. Woodruff Library of Atlanta University Center to uncover and make available previously hidden collections documenting the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta and New Orleans. The project is administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources with funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Each organization regularly contributes blog posts about their progress.

Many know journalist Stone Phillips from his work on NBC’s “Dateline.”  However, many people don’t know that in the summer of 1977, he worked for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  Following his graduation from Yale University, Phillips received a grant from the United Methodist Church to plan and implement a summer reading program for juvenile probationers aged 13-15.  The grant project was sponsored by the SCLC, and inspired by Fulton County Juvenile Court Judge Romae Powell who believed that there was a connection between reading deficiencies and juvenile delinquency.  The goals of the program were “to help each participant improve his or her reading skills, and…to promote self-confidence and positive self-awareness in each individual.”  Phillips and his supervisors believed that improving literacy among these teenagers would increase employment opportunities and foster an “understanding of the rights and obligations of citizenship.”[*] 

Twelve teenagers, divided into two small groups of six based on on reading ability, participated in the program.  Groups met twice each week with Phillips, who designed lessons tailored to the needs of those in the program.  One particular exercise involved listening to popular songs while reading along to the lyrics.  In the program’s final report, Phillips described how using a tool that was familiar to the students helped him encourage their progress and boost their self-esteem.  Additionally, by encouraging the students to discuss their feelings about the songs he was able to develop a bond with them that facilitated their work. 

Phillips made recommendations for continuing the program, but the outcome is unknown at this time.

Below is a portion of the final report submitted by Phillips to SCLC and the United Methodist Church.  Click the images to enlarge.  A biography of Stone Phillips “in his own words” can be found here.

                

[*] Quotes taken from the final report of the Reading and Enrichment Program, Fulton County Juvenile Court by Stone Phillips.