Alumnae: Alumnae Stories

Alumnae Stories

Celebrating Roslyn Pope, Ph.D., C’60, and the Alumnae of the Atlanta Student Movement

March 2016

Rosalyn PopeIn April 11, 2013, Rosyln Pope, Ph.D., C’60, stood center stage in Sisters Chapel and accepted an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, from her beloved alma mater. Fifty-three years earlier, Dr. Pope accepted another honor from her peers with the responsibility of writing “An Appeal for Human Rights,” the official manifesto of the Atlanta Student Movement.

“Having just returned from a year of study in Paris as a Merrill Scholar, I was not in the mood to return to segregation and second-class citizenship,” recalled Dr. Pope. “Although ‘the Appeal’ was approved by the students from all six colleges in the AU Center and signed by representatives from each, time constraints for its publication dictated that it would have to be written virtually single-handedly. Lonnie King, our student leader from Morehouse, assigned the project to me.”

While the statistical data was revised from the pamphlet, “A Second Look,” edited by M. Carl Holman from Clark College, the surrounding words were penned by Dr. Pope. On March 9, 1960, the document was published in several Atlanta newspapers, including The Atlanta Constitution, sparking the student civil rights protests in Atlanta. As exceptional and prophetic as her historical words were, Dr. Pope humbly recognizes, as does the Spelman community, that the student movement was a collective effort including the brave acts of many of her Spelman sisters including Herschelle Sullivan Chanellor, Ph.D., C'60, who served as co-chair of the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights, the organization credited for igniting the Atlanta freedom movement, and Gwendolyn Middlebrooks, Ph.D., C’61, who was jailed twice for picketing the Georgia State Capitol and courthouse.

Foot Soldiers for Equality

From 1960–1964, more than 150 Spelman students were involved in the planning and execution of sit-ins, boycotts, pickets, marches and other organized efforts to move the City of Atlanta, the state and nation toward equal justice and full citizenship for all people.

The world soon recognized, as Lonnie King founding chairman of the Atlanta Student Movement, adeptly wrote,"This system could not have been dismantled without determined young African Americans college students in the Atlanta University system, who joined with fearless older adults, and created a juggernaut, which brought down segregation in less than 18 months after being in place since the turn of the 20th century. "FootSoldiers

blue-quote-leftWe should never underestimate the great fortune that has befallen us in being a part of the Spelman family. The Spelman story is one of this country’s most inspiring sagas, especially as it relates to women of color. It is to be cherished; it is to be told and retold. blue-quote-right-- Dr. Rosyln Pope


In 2013, Spelman's Founders Spirit Award was bestowed upon the alumnae of the Atlanta Student Movement. Many of the recipients were present to accept this honor, including Malinda Clark Logan, C’64. “It was going to take all of us. We had to be brave, we had to be bold, we had to step out,” said Logan in “Foot Soldiers: Class of 1964,” the independent documentary about participants from the Class of 1964, produced by one of their own, Georgianne Thomas, Ph.D., C’64, and her daughter, Alvelyn Sanders. “The unity of the students gave us the strength and the courage to step out and to join and to take a more active part.”

A Proud "History of Ascendancy"

On Founders Day 2013, Dr. Pope said she felt such a sense of pride in Spelman’s prodigious history of ascendancy, “from Miss Packard and Miss Giles in the basement of Friendship Baptist Church to the great leadership of Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, and now being recognized as one of the outstanding liberal arts colleges of our time. I treasure the honor of having become a part of that history. We should never underestimate the great fortune that has befallen us in being a part of the Spelman family. The Spelman story is one of this country’s most inspiring sagas, especially as it relates to women of color. It is to be cherished; it is to be told and retold.”

This story originally appeared in the Spelman College Messenger.