Students, faculty, staff and community members gathered Feb. 22 to celebrate the life of Donald L. Hollowell, the civil rights attorney who fought to desegregate UGA, at the premiere campus screening of Donald L. Hollowell: Foot Soldier for Equal Justice at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education Conference Center and Hotel.
The documentary chronicles Hollowell’s achievements through his service as lead counsel in Holmes v. Danner, the landmark case that secured admission to UGA for Charlayne Hunter (now Hunter-Gault) and Hamilton Holmes, the first African Americans to register for classes at the university; his legal victory that won the release of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., from the Reidsville State Prison; and his effective defense of Preston Cobb, a 15-year-old black youth who was sentenced to die in Georgia’s electric chair. Several students in the School of Social Work discussed the impact the film had on them.
“I have a tremendous amount of reverence for Donald Hollowell who helped lay the foundation for social work practice today,” said second-year MSW student Abigail Shrader. “When the law was unjust he worked to change it and he did so with tireless eloquence, determination, courage and conviction. This film is a beautiful picture of what working for social change looks like.”
“What struck me the most about this documentary was how well he was respected at such a young age,” said Christopher Stokes, a dual degree MSW/J.D. student. “In his 40s, he was already arguing cases that would have a lasting impact on American society.”
Stokes recalled a point in the film that left an impression on him as an aspiring attorney.
“I can’t imagine getting my law degree and having to try a case in the balcony like Mr. Hollowell was asked to,” he said. “Mr. Hollowell not only blazed trails in regards to the law, but he also blazed trails in regards to legal representation here in the South and in the nation and for that I thank him.”
Maurice C. Daniels, dean of the School of Social Work and director of the Foot Soldier Project for Civil Rights Studies welcomed those gathered for event, and Derrick P. Alridge, director of the Institute for African American Studies and a professor in the College of Education introduced the film. Daniels and Alridge developed the film in partnership with UGA’s Center for Teaching and Learning and the Russell Library for Political Research and Studies.
“It is very rewarding and fulfilling to bring Hollowell’s activism and civil rights work in the 1950s and 1960s to a new generation,” Daniels said.
Alridge described Hollowell in his introduction of the film as an “enduring icon of the civil rights movement” for his work integrating the South, registering black voters across the nation and combating racial discrimination.
“The FSP did not have to travel far at all to discover Donald Hollowell, who was one of the most important and pivotal, yet uncelebrated foot soldiers of the civil rights movement,” he said.
Andrew Mayo, a first-year MSW student, gave closing remarks for the event.
“I feel truly indebted to all that Hollowell has contributed as a foot soldier for social justice,” he said. “The only way I can begin to make payment of such a debt, is to continue the work of Hollowell and fight for social justice as a student and soon to be social work professional.”