Date of Award

8-8-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

First Advisor

Dr. Jacqueline A. Rouse

Second Advisor

Dr. Ian C. Fletcher

Third Advisor

Dr. Kathryn E. Wilson

Abstract

ABSTRACT

This dissertation examines the enduring leadership of community activists Dorothy Bolden, Ella Mae Wade Brayboy, and Pearlie Dove from 1964 until 2015. Brayboy was one of the first African-American Deputy Voter Registrars in the state of Georgia, Bolden founded the National Domestic Workers Union and Dove was the first woman to head the department of education at Clark College. This dissertation inserts Dorothy Bolden, Ella Mae Wade Brayboy, and Pearlie Dove into the classic Civil Rights Movement narrative by framing their community advocacy as equal to the efforts of Atlanta’s more well-known African-American leaders.

This dissertation presents Bolden, Brayboy, and Dove as career-oriented professional women who were also politically savvy community activists. These three women acquired a power base that allowed them to found organizations, create programming, and develop projects dedicated to empowering Atlanta’s black community. These women achieved a level of influence typically associated with the wealthy or the political prominent. Because the three women were grassroots organizers, this study contends that the implications of their activism have been obscured because of gender, race, and class. This study seeks to foreground Bolden, Brayboy, and Dove’s efforts in Atlanta’s Movement narrative.

In this dissertation, assessments of Bolden, Brayboy, and Dove’s professional contributions as acts of protest on behalf of the black community are used to undergird a critical intervention; first, their work refutes previous ideology centering the efficacy of Movement leadership (as a social movement) as grounded in mass mobilization. Secondly, their leadership was oppositional to the standard portraiture of Movement leadership as male, ministerial, and middle-class. Finally, the women’s professional and activist emphases on economic uplift, education, and enfranchisement illustrate evidence of how sustained acts of protest, led by local leadership, impacted the community.

Because there is considerably less literature focused on the historical significance of black women acquiring political power outside of elected office, this study seeks to establish the women as politically significant local leadership.

Available for download on Wednesday, July 24, 2019

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