The Temple Bombing

Violence Shocks Atlanta

“Looking at this terrible demolition I cannot help but realize it is the end result of a lot of rabble-rousing in the South.”

“Atlanta has prided itself in being a beacon of tolerance and racial and religious decency in the South. This shocks and amazes us. We cannot help but feel this is the work of an out-of-town gang operating southwide.

The full resources of the police department will sift every piece of debris and move every stone and will round up all suspects. For years rabble-rousers of the South have been frustrated by fact they could not produce violence in Atlanta. We propose to hold that record in spite of this unfortunate violence...

Looking at this terrible demolition I cannot help but realize it is the end result and payoff of a lot of rabble-rousing in the South. Whether they like it or not, every political rabble-rouser is the godfather of these cross burners and dynamiters who sneak about in the dark and give a bad name to the South. It is high time that decent people of the South rise and take charge if governmental chaos is to be avoided...”

Editor’s Note: On October 12, 1958, a group of white supremacists calling themselves the “Confederate Underground” bombed the oldest and most prominent synagogue in Atlanta, known as “The Temple.” They chose to target The Temple because of the Civil Rights activism of Rabbi Rothschild who was a vocal critic of segregation. While no one was hurt in the bombing, this act of terrorism shook the city to its core, and many began to question Mayor Hartsfield’s insistence that Atlanta was a “city too busy to hate.”

Hartsfield rushed immediately to the scene and the above excerpt comes from his statement released within hours after the bombing. In his statement, Hartsfield called on the city of Atlanta to rise up and denounce the bombing. Atlanta answered Hartsfield’s call and ordinary citizens from around the city and the country condemned this act of violence.

A man who answered Hartsfield's call was Ralph McGill, a prominent reporter for The Atlanta Constitution. In response to the Temple bombing, he wrote a powerful editorial calling out southern politicians and leaders whose rhetoric and opposition to the Civil Rights Movement opened the doors to a flood of hate and violence. McGill and many other reporters at The Atlanta Constitution were vocal opponents of the white supremacists, segregationists, and demagogues that agitated violence across the nation. McGill firmly believed that "when the wolves of hate are loosed on one people, then no one is safe."