Prior to celebrating the 50th anniversary of her graduation, Mary Frances Early donated her personal papers and memorabilia to the Foot Soldier Project Collection in the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies.
“I thought these papers might be valuable in the future. I have no children to leave them to so my history has to be told in a different way,” Early said. “I’m interested in research, and I think if those people who write research can find anything interesting in my history they can find it here.”
The donation represents Early’s college years and 45 years in education. The significance of the materials goes beyond one person, according to Cynthia Dillard, the inaugural holder of the Mary Frances Early Chair of Teacher Education in the College of Education.
“For me, the importance of having African-American papers anywhere is critical. This is not just about Mary Frances Early, this is about UGA and her life here, but also the life of an African-American teacher,” Dillard said. “We have so few stories of phenomenal teachers, and she was in public education during turbulent times and difficult times. I look forward to carrying this legacy on.”
Maurice Daniels, dean of the School of Social Work, is founder and director of the Foot Soldier Project for Civil Rights Studies, which is housed in the Russell Library.
“On behalf of the Foot Soldier Project for Civil Rights Studies, I am deeply honored and humbled that Ms. Early has donated her personal papers,” Daniels said. “The papers, which include photographs, personal notes, official documents and correspondences with prominent civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., are of great historical significance.
“It is fitting that the university will archive, preserve and showcase the personal papers of this distinguished alumna who helped make democracy more of a reality at our university and in our state,” he added.