Grace Towns Hamilton and the Politics of Southern Change: An African American Woman's Struggle for Racial Equality

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No history of the civil rights era in the South would be complete without an account of the remarkable life and career of Grace Towns Hamilton, the first African American woman in the Deep South to be elected to a state legislature. A national official of the Young Women's Christian Association early in her career, Hamilton later headed the Atlanta Urban League, where she worked within the confines of segregation to equalize African American access to education, health care, and voting rights. In the Georgia ...
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Overview

No history of the civil rights era in the South would be complete without an account of the remarkable life and career of Grace Towns Hamilton, the first African American woman in the Deep South to be elected to a state legislature. A national official of the Young Women's Christian Association early in her career, Hamilton later headed the Atlanta Urban League, where she worked within the confines of segregation to equalize African American access to education, health care, and voting rights. In the Georgia legislature from 1965 until 1984, she exercised considerable power as a leader in the black struggle for local, state, and national offices, promoting interracial cooperation as the key to racial justice. Her probity and moderation paved the way for the election of other black women, and by the end of her political career no southern legislature was without women members of her race.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Historians Spritzer and Bergmark's work on Atlanta Urban League director Hamilton, Georgia's first African American woman legislator, is the latest in a number of books about Southerners working for racial equality before the mass actions of the Civil Rights movement. A member of Atlanta's elite black middle class, Hamilton practiced conciliation, negotiation, and interracial cooperation and achieved results, e.g., increased black voter registration, better housing, improved education and healthcare, and a new Atlanta city charter. She won respect from white politicians but received little approval from the younger, more militant generation of black political leaders. Using oral history and archival material, the authors movingly portray Hamilton as an agent for racial equality. Recommended for public and academic libraries.Charles L. Lumpkins, Bloomsburg Univ. Lib., Pa.
Kirkus Reviews
An impressive biography that provides fresh insight into the patterns of change in southern politics and race relations.

In 1965, Grace Towns Hamilton was elected to the Georgia state legislature, becoming the first black woman in the Deep South to hold such office. That achievement was the culmination of a lifetime defined by dedicated public service and achievement. Throughout her long career Hamilton remained true to her beliefs, chief among them that one must always work for the common good (of both blacks and whites). Her refusal to reduce politics to racial issues led to conflict with radical younger leaders, who considered her moderation a betrayal. While acknowledging her shortcomings in specific circumstances, Spritzer and Bergmark, both freelance writers, openly defend their subject. They adroitly set Hamilton's biography within the context of broad social and political trends (from Reconstruction to the civil-rights era), and they bring to life the unique cultural and political world of Atlanta. Hamilton was born and married into the privileged society of the city's black elite. She worked for the YWCA for many years, then for the Atlanta Urban League, heading numerous pivotal projects: establishing a hospital for "nonindigent Negroes," registering voters, building housing for the city's black community, improving its black schools. In all these endeavors, Hamilton's philosophy was one of pragmatism. A woman of dignity (with an almost aristocratic bearing), learning, and patience, Hamilton achieved her goals in a nonconfrontational manner: Inform and educate whites, she argued, and they will cooperate.

With all her accomplishments, her unique style, and her flaws, Grace Towns Hamilton is a remarkable figure. Spritzer and Bergmark have performed a great service by bringing her story to light in this thorough and engaging, albeit partisan, portrait of a woman and her times.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820318899
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/1997
  • Pages: 266
  • Product dimensions: 6.23 (w) x 9.19 (h) x 1.04 (d)

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