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Spelman College and the Civil Rights Movement, 1957–1967
Harry G. Lefever (C 55)
Undaunted by the Fight is a study of a small, but dedicated, group of Spelman College students and faculty who, between 1957 and 1967, risked their lives, compromised their grades, and jeopardized their careers to make Atlanta and the South a more just and open society.
Lefever argues that the participation of Spelman’s students and faculty in the Civil Rights Movement represented both a continuity and a break with the institution’s earlier history. On the one hand their actions were consistent with Spelman’s long history of liberal arts and community service; yet, on the other hand, as his research documents, their actions represented a break with Spelman’s traditional non-political stance and challenged the assumption that social changes should occur only gradually and within established legal institutions. For the first time in the 80-plus years of Spelman’s existence, the students and faculty who participated in the movement took actions that directly challenged the injustices of the social and political status quo.
Too often in the past, the movement literature, including the literature on the Atlanta Movement, focused disproportionately on the males involved to the exclusion of the women who were equally involved, and, who, in many instances, initiated actions and provided leadership for the movement.
Lefever concludes his study by saying that Spelman’s activist students and faculty succeeded to the extent they did because they “kept their eyes on the prize.” They endured the struggle, he says, and, in so doing, eventually won many prizes—some personal, others social. “Undaunted, they liberated themselves, but at the same time they liberated their school, their city, and the larger society.”
Harry G. Lefever (C 55) has a masters degree from the University of Chicago, and a doctorate from Emory University. He has been a member of the Spelman College sociology department since 1966. In 2003 he was promoted to professor emeritus of sociology. Prior to coming to Spelman, he taught for three years at Eastern Mennonite University.
A Novel of the Anabaptist Reformation
Elwood E. Yoder (C 81, S 89)
“Yoder quickly grabs your attention in this book full of love, denial, faithfulness, and with twists and surprises around every turn,” says author Jesse Morris.
A third generation printer, Margaret runs a small, but respected print shop in Strasbourg, Germany. As new Christian ideas and beliefs spring from the Lutherans and Anabaptists, she willingly prints literature for them and sees herself being pulled closer and closer to the Anabaptist faith.
When Balthasar Beck, a fellow printer, comes to town in the spring of 1525, Margaret and Beck quickly become friends. Together they learn about and discuss the new religious ideas, and in the process, they discover their love for one another.
Outside the city walls, Margaret and Beck meet Conrad Grebel, the fiery-red-bearded Swiss Anabaptist who invites them to accept believers baptism. They also meet George Blaurock, Hans Hut, and many other influential Anabaptists.
In December of 1525, the Strasbourg City Council discovers the pamphlets Margaret has printed for Conrad Grebel. On a cold and snowy night, at a huge blaze on Clement Ziegler’s farm, the authorities burn her pamphlets. In spite of this, Margaret remains determined to continue to print materials that will build up the struggling Anabaptists.
Elwood Yoder (C 81, S 89) grew up in the Mennonite community of Hartville, Ohio. He is coauthor of Through Fire and Water (1996). He has been teaching high school social studies and Bible at Eastern Mennonite High School since 1989.