“Foot Soldier for Equal Justice”
Narrator: The Honorable Julian Bond, chair of the NAACP Board of Directors
Senior Researcher and Executive Producer: Maurice Daniels, Ed.D.
Producer and Director: Janice Reaves
Co-producer and Director: George Rodrigues
Academic Adviser and Script Editor: Derrick Alridge, Ph.D.
Executive Consultant: Bryndis Roberts, Esq.
Educational Consultants: Katheryn Davis; Cheryl Davenport Dozier, Ph.D.; Letha See, Ph.D.; and Louise Tomlinson, Ph.D.
Produced in conjunction with the Georgia Center for Continuing Education.
“Foot Soldier for Equal Justice” brings together archival materials and interviews to tell the story of higher education desegregation at the University of Georgia and in the University of Georgia System. The documentary tells the story of desegregation through the eyes of Horace T. Ward, a native of LaGrange, Georgia, who became the first African American to sue for admission to an all-white college in Georgia. Ward, who was denied admission, subsequently was admitted to and graduated from Northwestern University Law School in Chicago. Ironically, he later became counsel, along with well-known civil rights attorney Donald Hollowell, in the 1961 legal case that successfully gained the admission of Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter to the University of Georgia and resulted in the school’s desegregation.
Drawing primarily from the methods of social and institutional history, as well as historical policy analysis and other qualitative methods, the film provides a narrative of the important events of desegregation at the University and a thorough analysis of the motives, fears, and actions of the major players in Judge Ward’s story. The study draws on personal papers and interviews as well as a wide array of archival documents from Georgia and throughout the South.
While “Foot Soldier for Equal Justice” is a civil rights historical documentary, it also touches on issues relevant to many other disciplines—social work, law, education, public policy, political science, and African American Studies, to name a few—that are concerned with issues of equality and the pursuit of social justice.
PART I: “Horace T. Ward and the Desegregation of the University of Georgia”
Part I recounts the history of desegregation in higher education in the United States, chronicling the courage of plaintiffs and the brilliance of NAACP lawyers who successfully challenged racial apartheid in American colleges and universities.
Following U.S. Supreme Court victories in Texas and Oklahoma in 1950, a relatively unsung hero in Georgia by the name of Horace Ward challenged segregation in colleges and universities in Georgia. After earning a Bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College and a Master’s degree with honors from Atlanta University, Ward applied for admission to the University of Georgia Law School. Despite the previous Supreme Court victories, Georgia continued its resistance and offered Ward a so-called “out of state scholarship,” a practice that had been ruled unconstitutional in the 1938 Gaines case.
Ward refused the scholarship and filed a lawsuit against the university in 1952, becoming the first African American to seek to dismantle segregation in Georgia’s institutions of higher education. Despite the brilliant arguments of his attorneys, including Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley, Ward lost his case in 1956 on technical grounds. By the time his case was tried, Ward had been admitted to Northwestern University Law School, and the court therefore ruled that his case was moot.
Today, Horace T. Ward, a man who was judged by university officials to lack the ability to study law and the mind to practice law, has become one of America’s most distinguished federal judges.
PART II: “The Aftermath of the Desegregation of the University of Georgia and Horace T. Ward’s Climb to the Federal Bench”
Part II of the documentary begins with the story of UGA’s efforts to thwart the admission of Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter, and the success of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in challenging these roadblocks. The narrative is told through the voices of attorney Donald L. Hollowell, Federal Judge Constance Baker Motley, Federal Judge Horace T. Ward, business leader Jesse Hill, and attorney Vernon Jordan. Former Governor Ernest Vandiver and Deputy Attorney General E. Freeman Leverett recount the state’s response to the desegregation crisis.
Highlights of the film include Dr. Hamilton Holmes’s dramatic account of obstacles he faced at the university; Athens civil rights activists Alfred and Archibald Killian’s portrayal of their residence as a place of refuge for Holmes; and a depiction of the perseverance and remarkable achievements of both Holmes and Hunter despite the almost insurmountable odds they had to overcome. The film also features Mary Frances Early, the first African-American graduate of the University of Georgia; Chester Davenport, Jr., now a prominent attorney and entrepreneur, who was the first African American student to enter the UGA School of Law; and Robert Benham, Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, who was the second African American student to enter UGA’s law school.
The documentary chronicles Ward’s ascent from civil rights plaintiff to a judge on the federal bench. It examines Ward’s legal work, which he began as a civil rights attorney under the tutelage of legendary trial lawyer Donald L. Hollowell. The film also highlights Ward’s public service and appointment to the federal judiciary. U.S. Senator Herman Talmadge, the former governor of Georgia who was instrumental in blocking Ward’s admission to UGA, appears in the documentary. Senator Talmadge later nominated Ward for a federal judgeship, and President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the U.S. Northern District Court of Georgia.
Given the contemporary barriers to social justice and the lingering discrimination against a number of minority groups in America, an examination of Ward’s advocacy and record of service illuminates a powerful model for those in pursuit of justice and equality.
“Hamilton Earl Holmes: The Legacy Continues”
Narrator: Dr. Joseph E. Lowery
Executive Producers: Maurice C. Daniels, Derrick P. Alridge
Producer: Janice Reaves
Script Writers: Greg Morrison, La Geris Underwood Bell
Production Manager: Bobby Mitchell
Original Music: Howard Stroud, Jr.
Editor: Jennifer Hartley
Produced in association with the UGA Office of Instructional Support and Development.
“Hamilton Earl Holmes: The Legacy Continues” tells the remarkable story of Hamilton Earl Holmes of Atlanta, Georgia. Narrated by eminent civil rights leader Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, the documentary chronicles the life of a young man who courageously navigated the tumultuous river of social justice and quietly took his place in the annals of the civil rights movement. Holmes was the first African American man admitted to the University of Georgia and the first African American student admitted to the Emory University Medical School.
The documentary traces the social activism of Holmes’s father, uncle, grandfather, and family friend Charles Bell as they sought to desegregate public recreational facilities in Atlanta during the early 1950s. Bell offers a firsthand account of how the foursome struggled to dismantle segregation in Atlanta by serving as plaintiffs in an historic federal lawsuit to desegregate the city’s golf courses.
“Hamilton Earl Holmes: The Legacy Continues” is also the story of the quiet strength and dignity of Hamilton Holmes’s mother, Isabella Holmes, who provided a strong and stable center for her family during their quest to dismantle Jim Crow in Atlanta and desegregate UGA. The documentary includes a wide selection of archival footage and documents, family photographs, and first-person accounts that vividly illustrate one family’s struggle for democracy in Georgia.
Using Holmes and his family as a lens through which to examine the civil rights struggle in Georgia, the documentary provides a grassroots view of history that expands and enriches understanding of several key events that shaped the modern civil rights movement in America. The story of the Holmes family’s multi-generational achievements and resolve is exemplary for those engaged in the continuing struggle for social and economic justice.
The documentary is produced by UGA’s Foot Soldier Project for Civil Rights Studies in conjunction with the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies and the Office of Instructional Support and Development.