The Mission of the Foot Soldier Project

The Foot Soldier Project for Civil Rights Studies and Research seeks to establish an archival and documentary research infrastructure for studying, disseminating, and preserving information and scholarship on the civil rights movement, social justice and reform, and policy-related issues. Its aim is to advance civil rights scholarship while contributing more broadly to enhancing local and national discourses on diversity and equity.

This project centers on chronicling the lives and stories of those “foot soldiers for equal justice” whose names may not be familiar, but whose dedication to the cause of equality and civil rights formed the backbone of a movement that brought about sweeping changes in the nation’s history. It seeks to illuminate the contributions of some of the foremost, yet still unsung, twentieth century freedom fighters in order to provide a fuller understanding of issues of race, equity, and social reform in Georgia and the South during the 1950s and 1960s. Such work will help to illustrate how social change and social reform results from the hard work and dedication not only of the few celebrated figures whose names are preserved in history books and movies, but also of the countless committed individuals whose contributions, while unrecognized, are nevertheless crucial.

 

Featured Research and Scholarship

GroundCrewCoverGround Crew: The Fight to End Segregation at Georgia State

The Hunt v. Arnold decision of 1959 against the state of Georgia marked a watershed moment in the fight against segregation in higher education. Though the Supreme Court declared school segregation illegal in its 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, Georgia was among many southern states that refused to abide by the Court’s ruling. In 1956, the Georgia State College of Business (now Georgia State University) denied admission to nine black applicants. Three of those applicants-lead plaintiff Barbara Pace Hunt, Iris Mae Welch, and Myra Elliott Dinsmore-coordinated with the NAACP and local activists to win a groundbreaking lawsuit against the state of Georgia and its Board of Regents. Hunt v. Arnold became the NAACP’s first federal court victory against segregated education in Georgia, establishing key legal precedents for subsequent litigation against racial discrimination in education.

With Ground Crew, Maurice Daniels provides an intimate and detailed account that chronicles a compelling story. Following their litigation against the all-white institution, Hunt, Welch, and Dinsmore confronted hardened resistance and attacks from white supremacists, including inflammatory statements by high-profile political leaders and personal threats from the Ku Klux Klan. Using archival sources, court records, collections of personal papers, news coverage, and oral histories of that era, Daniels explores in depth the plaintiffs’ courageous fight to end segregation at Georgia State. In lucid prose, Daniels sheds light on the vital role of community-based activists, local attorneys, and the NAACP in this forgotten but critical piece of the struggle to end segregation.

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Honoring the “Ground Crew”: The Inaugural Groundbreaker Lecture

Join us for the first-ever Groundbreaker Lecture on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, honoring three of the brave women who sued to desegregate Georgia State University. The event will be held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at Speaker’s Auditorium in Student Center East. This new lecture series recognizes those whose bold, brave actions have had a significant, positive impact and fundamentally advanced society for the better. At this event, Dr. Maurice C. Daniels will discuss Ground Crew, which will be followed by a reception and book signing.

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MFE The Quiet Trailblazer“Mary Frances Early: The Quiet Trailblazer”

This documentary film, narrated by esteemed journalist Monica Pearson, chronicles Mary Frances Early’s integral role in the campaign for racial equality that helped open the door of educational opportunity for generations of African Americans at the University of Georgia (UGA).

The film traces Early’s involvement as a central figure in the desegregation of the University of Georgia and her triumph as the first African American graduate. Utilizing an array of archival materials, collections of personal papers, news coverage, along with personal interviews, the documentary also covers Early’s formative years and illuminates her superior academic and professional achievements.

Honored repeatedly for her achievements and service, in 2013 UGA President Michael Adams conferred upon her an honorary doctor of laws. In 2018, UGA President Jere Morehead bestowed the President’s Medal to Early.

Some of the interviewees and individuals appearing in the film telling Early’s story include Congressman John Lewis, Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, Lonnie King, Dr. Juanita Johnson-Bailey, and Michael Thurmond. The documentary includes footage from interviews with Early and rare archival footage from her personal papers.

Premiering 9/11/18

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saving the soul“Saving the Soul of Georgia: Donald L. Hollowell and the Struggle for Civil Rights”

Donald L. Hollowell was Georgia’s chief civil rights attorney during the 1950s and 1960s. In this role he defended African American men accused or convicted of capital crimes in a racially hostile legal system, represented movement activists arrested for their civil rights work, and fought to undermine the laws that maintained state-sanctioned racial discrimination. In Saving the Soul of Georgia, Dr. Maurice C. Daniels tells the story of this behind the scenes yet highly influential civil rights lawyer who defended the rights of blacks and advanced the cause of social justice in the United States.

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horace ward“Horace T. Ward: Desegregation of the University of Georgia, Civil Rights Advocacy, and Jurisprudence”

Horace T. Ward was the first African American to sue for admission to an all-white college or university in Georgia. His protracted lawsuit for admission to the University of Georgia School of Law, though unsuccessful, played a pivotal role in the desegregation of higher education in Georgia a decade later. Ward went on to a distinguished and precedent-setting career as a civil rights litigator, state senator, and ultimately state superior court and federal court judge–the first appointment of an African American to these judicial positions. Dr. Maurice C. Daniels not only chronicles Ward’s struggle and achievements but contextualizes them within the history of desegregation and civil rights. In meticulous scholarly detail, Daniels recounts the formative role of the NAACP and the perseverance and courage of African American students and lawyers who challenged segregation. In recounting Ward’s story and its surrounding events, Daniels has brought together an impressive array of archival materials, collections of personal papers, court records, and news coverage, along with a wealth of personal interviews by the author.

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