Atlanta’s civil rights center names Jill Savitt new director

Marchers take to the streets they leave the Center for Civil and Human Rights before the start of the Women's March in Atlanta in 2017. DAVID BARNES / DAVID.BARNES@AJC.COM)

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Marchers take to the streets they leave the Center for Civil and Human Rights before the start of the Women's March in Atlanta in 2017. DAVID BARNES / DAVID.BARNES@AJC.COM)

Atlanta's Center for Civil and Human Rights named Jill Savitt as the new chief executive officer after a year-long search.

A human rights advocate for the past 20 years, Savitt is the acting director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Brian Tolleson, interim CEO at the Atlanta center, will step down but will continue to serve on the board.

“Jill begins her tenure at a fantastic moment for us,” said former Mayor Shirley Franklin, board chair at the center, in a statement. “She is a strategic visionary and a skilled, incisive communicator.”

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Jill Savitt, former acting director of Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, has been named the new CEO of the Center for Civil and Human Rights. CONTRIBUTED: CENTER FOR CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS

Jill Savitt, former acting director of Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, has been named the new CEO of the Center for Civil and Human Rights. CONTRIBUTED: CENTER FOR CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS

Combined ShapeCaption
Jill Savitt, former acting director of Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, has been named the new CEO of the Center for Civil and Human Rights. CONTRIBUTED: CENTER FOR CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS

Savitt's predecessor was Derreck Kayongo, a one-time refugee from Uganda who served from 2015 until 2018.

Kayongo founded the Atlanta-based Global Soap Project in 2008, eventually sending millions of bars of reclaimed soap to refugees around the world.

The center, housed in a striking lens-shaped building in downtown Atlanta, opened in 2014.

It offers three galleries; on the main floor it tells of Atlanta's civil rights legacy; on the the third floor is an exhibit addressing global human rights; the lowest floor offers a rotating exhibit of the papers of Martin Luther King Jr., from the Morehouse College collection.

From 2010 until the center opened in 2014 Savitt curated the human rights exhibition at the center.

In 2007 Savitt founded Dream for Darfur, a campaign that pressed the Chinese government to seek a resolution to the the Darfur crisis.

Dream for Darfur was recognized for influencing the Chinese government to change its policies on Sudan in the lead up to the 2008 Olympics.

The center announced recently that, through a grant from Coca-Cola and Fed Ex it will offer free admission through the end of February as a boon to Super Bowl visitors.