Our Digital Projects Archivist Donnie Summerlin recently appeared on the Political Junkie podcast to discuss an article he recently wrote, “‘We Represented the Best of Georgia in Chicago’: The Georgia Loyalist Delegate Challenge at the 1968 Democratic National Convention” which appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of the Georgia Historical Quarterly. Ken Rudin, who has hosted the Political Junkie podcast since 2013, is the former political editor for National Public Radio (NPR).
Donnie Summerlin’s segment begins at the 36:00 minute mark.
The discussion revolves around how, in August 1968, a group of dissident Georgia Democrats organized a challenge to the state’s certified delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The challenge began as a protest of the politics of segregationist governor Lester Maddox by moderates in the state Democratic party, but it transitioned into a cooperative effort between Georgia’s civil rights and antiwar movement activists to undermine the autocratic influence of party leaders in determining who would represent them at the convention. State representative and civil rights activist Julian Bond led the credentials fight in Chicago that ultimately resulted in the Loyalist challengers earning half the state’s delegates from the party regulars and Bond, himself, becoming the first African American nominated for vice president by a major party in the United States. This effort illustrated the Georgia Democratic Party’s bumpy transition from a conservative organization to a liberal one in the second half of the twentieth century. Additionally, the challenge was a significant event in the eventual reformation and democratization of the Democratic Party’s national delegate and presidential candidate selection process.
Congratulations to Donnie, and thanks to Ken Rudin for a great podcast!
footage from a WSB-TV newsfilm clip dated July 27, 1962, that includes scenes related to the closure of public schools and education for African Americans in Prince Edward County, Virginia. The WSB-TV collection consists of over 5 million feet of newsfilm from WSB-TV in Atlanta, Georgia, and coverage of national civil rights events, such as those in Prince Edward County, Virginia.
On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court in the Brown v. Board of Education case ruled against segregation in public schools. That case included a case against segregated education that was brought against Prince Edward County in 1951. After the Brown ruling, Virginia state officials instituted a plan of “massive resistance” to court-ordered integration, passing laws to close integrated schools and provide tuition grants to displaced white students. After both state and federal courts overturned the school closing law in January 1959, governor J. Lindsay Almond called a special legislative session and announced the end to the state’s policy of massive resistance. That fall, leaders in Prince Edward County chose to close the public school system rather than allow integration. White citizens established the Prince Edward School Foundation as a private school system for the 1,500 white school children in the county. The 1,700 African American schoolchildren were left without educational opportunities in the county. Some were sent to live with relatives in other parts of Virginia and attend classes there, some began college early, and some accepted arrangements to attend school in other states; most remained out of school until the fall of 1964 when federal courts ordered Prince Edward County to reopen its public school system.
In the episode “School Interrupted,” the program highlights a student strike in Prince Edward County that followed the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. The program’s host, Ed Ayers, learns about the drama that unfolded through conversations with two of the student strikers. He discovers how black women activists defied the school closures by starting grassroots schools, and he meets an author whose grandfather helped start the whites-only “segregation academy” Prince Edward Academy. In a museum at the school that started it all, Ed Ayers talks with a descendant of strikers who inspires students today to take up the fight for justice.