National History Day 2nd place finishers

Ke'Von Singleton (left) and Malik Hubbard took second place in the documentary category at National History Day 2018 with a short they produced on the role of the Coca-Cola Company in the Civil Rights movement in Atlanta. Ke'Von is a rising senior at First Baptist School and Malik is a rising senior at Palmetto Scholars Academy. Palmetto Scholars Academy/Provided

For their third documentary on the civil rights movement, the teenage filmmaking duo of Ke'Von Singleton and Malik Hubbard focused on a defining moment for Atlanta's business community: The time when the Coca-Cola Co. threw its financial weight around to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Ke'Von, 16, is a rising senior at First Baptist School, and Malik, 17, is a rising senior at Palmetto Scholars Academy in North Charleston. Their 10-minute documentary titled "Atlanta: 'The City too Busy to Hate' " took second place in the documentary category at the National History Day competition in College Park, Md., last week.

They won a $500 cash prize.

Ke'Von and Malik have teamed up on two other documentaries before: One on the musical and activist career of Marian Anderson, and another on the so-called "Friendship Nine," who were arrested for holding a sit-in at a segregated lunch counter in Rock Hill.

"We're trying to show a new side of the civil rights movement with every documentary," Malik said.

Their latest project focuses on the early months of 1965. Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen was trying to arrange a dinner in honor of King, who had recently become the first Georgian to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Many white business leaders in the city refused to attend the integrated event.

Coca-Cola was based in Atlanta, and both the company and the city had aspirations of international stature. Fearing damage to their reputation if the city refused to honor a peacemaking icon, the soft drink company brought in its CEO, J. Paul Austin, to intervene.

A native of Georgia, Austin had lived for 14 years in South Africa and saw the economic damage wrought by apartheid. He threw down the gauntlet in a speech to the business elites of Atlanta, threatening to relocate the company if they didn't show up to the dinner.

"The Coca-Cola Company does not need Atlanta. You all need to decide whether Atlanta needs the Coca-Cola Company," Austin said. Tickets for the event sold out in two hours.

The theme of this year's National History Day competition was "Conflict and Compromise in History," and Ke'Von said he wanted to show how sheer economic interest played a role in some of the great compromises of the civil rights era.

"At first we said, 'Oh, Coca-Cola is such a good company, they’re so amazing,'" Ke'Von said. "But then we did the research and we said, 'Did they really do that for Dr. King? They were kind of under a lot of pressure.' "

The documentary is free to watch on YouTube.

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Reach Paul Bowers at 843-937-5546. Follow him on Twitter @paul_bowers.

Paul Bowers is an education reporter and father of three living in North Charleston. He previously worked at the Charleston City Paper, where he was twice named South Carolina Journalist of the Year in the weekly category.