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Mayor Shirley Franklin Challenges Students to Seize Their Moment in History

By ADD SEYMOUR JR.

Young people have to be ready to seize their moment just as civil rights activist Vivian Malone Jones did when she desegregated the University of Alabama, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin told students during the Jan. 22nd Crown Forum.

“Vivian Malone Jones didn’t give up and didn’t give out,” Franklin said as she delivered the first annual Vivian Malone Jones Lecture on Civil Rights. “She acted with courage and she executed resolve…But she took the road less-traveled as a young woman, not much younger than you…The question is how strong will your shoulders be that others stand on?”

Jones and classmate James Hood made history in 1963 in defying Gov. George Wallace, who stood in front of the University of Alabama doors to keep them from becoming the school’s first black students, to register for classes.

Hood transferred after two months (he got his doctorate from Alabama in 1997), but Jones went on to become the school’s first African American graduate. She worked for the U.S. Department of Justice and eventually moved to Atlanta to become head of civil rights and urban affairs for the Environmental Protection Agency. She retired in 1996 and died of a stroke in 2005.

“There is no doubt that Vivian Malone Jones’s legacy is the proper type of legacy,” Franklin said.

Franklin was chosen as to give the Vivian Malone Jones Lecture because of her nearly four decades of work with the city of Atlanta and in politics.
But President Robert M. Franklin Jr. ’75 said Franklin should also be recognized for brokering the $32-million deal that brought to campus the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection, a prestigious cadre of 10,000 hand-written lectures, sermons and other papers that belonged to King, a 1948 graduate.

“Without Mayor Franklin’s courage and vision, it wouldn’t have occurred,” he said. “We should honor her for that.”

The mayor, who’s second and final term ends this fall, also was honored with an oil portrait that was unveiled after the lecture. It will hang inside the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel.

“This is where we pass on the legacy,” Mayor Franklin said. “So I am thrilled and humbled that I can be part of this program.”

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