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Spelman College's In Memoriam Tributes

Spelman College Salutes Gwendolyn Middlebrooks, C'61

Always Undaunted by the Fight: Atlanta Remembers Dr. Middlebrooks

Gwendolyn Harris Middlebrooks c61Dr. Gwendolyn Harris Middlebrooks, 84, civil rights activist and beloved educator, passed away on Feb. 7, 2024. Born on Nov. 1, 1939, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as the third child of the union of Mrs. Lillie Mae Hughley Harris and Mr. Edward Harris, Dr. Middlebrooks moved to Atlanta at a young age and became deeply involved in the fight for equality, participating in key actions that led to the desegregation of the city.

A Spelman College alumna, she later returned to the College to embark on a distinguished 42-year career, shaping future leaders, and retiring as professor emerita. Dr. Middlebrooks earned her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Georgia State University and received numerous accolades for her contributions to civil rights and education.

She is survived by her husband of 63 years, Mr. James Thomas Middlebrooks; her children, Dr. Jayne Thenise Morgan (Joe), Dr. Valerie Leah Johnson (Michael), and Mr. Kevin James Middlebrooks (Bijou); her sister, Yvonne Harris; and her grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her two brothers, Mr. Alfred Harris, and Mr. Edward Harris (Peaky).


Services were held at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Feb. 13, 2024, at 11 a.m. 
Read the WSB Atlanta article and see how Atlanta remembered Dr. Middlebrooks. 


Celebrating the Life and Legacy of a True Blue Champion


A Letter From Spelman College President Helene Gayle

The Spelman community is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Spelman Alumna and Associate Professor Emerita Gwendolyn Middlebrooks, Ph.D., C’61, on February 7, 2024.

During her undergraduate years at Spelman College, Dr. Middlebrooks was actively involved in the Atlanta Student Movement, participated in the first sit-ins at restaurants in the City of Atlanta and was arrested at the Georgia State Capitol. Those sit-ins and subsequent picketing at restaurants and businesses were planned, organized and initiated by Atlanta University Center students, and resulted in the desegregation of restaurants and other facilities in Atlanta. “I knew we were doing something right,” she said, in a March 2016 interview.

Dr. Middlebrooks was truly dedicated to Spelman College, where she was employed for 42 years after beginning her teaching career in the Atlanta Public School System in 1961. As a tenured faculty member and Education department administrator, Dr. Middlebrooks’ research, publications and presentations throughout the years were focused on teacher leadership, leadership preparation and teacher education. Her extensive knowledge of educational issues, leadership, administration and management was demonstrated in her annual service for more than 30 years on national and state teacher accreditation committees.

Read Dr. Gayle's Full Letter


A Drum Major for Justice and her Role in the Atlanta Student Movement


Large Blue Quote LeftWhen I saw all the students pouring off Spelman's campus...I thought my heart would just break with joy. They just decided they were coming to join in something that they knew was worthwhile." -- Gwendolyn Middlebrooks, Ph.D.

Associate professor emeritus Gwendolyn Middlebrooks, Ph.D., C’61, was an original member of the Atlanta Student Sit-In Movement (1959-1960) who was jailed twice for picketing the Georgia State Capitol and courthouse. She used to work as a babysitter for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, and has been a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church since she was 10 years old.

"Though protected from Jim Crow by her family, she began to experience discrimination as a teenager in Atlanta, when she engaged in her first protests. At Spelman College, she was arrested for sitting-in at segregated lunch counters, and assisted the civil rights movement in numerous ways. She was deeply committed to civil and human rights for all."

From the Civil and Human Rights.Org website.


Tribute Submission for Gwendolyn Middlebrooks, Ph.D.

Please share your reflections and tributes honoring Professor Emerita Gwendolyn Middlebrooks


. . .We‟ll ever faithful be
Throughout eternity.
May peace with thee abide
And God forever guide
Thy heights supreme and true.
Blessings to you.

Through years of toil and pain
May thy dear walls remain
Beacons of heavenly light,
Undaunted by the fight;
And when life‟s race is won,
Thy noble work is done,
Oh God, forever bind
Our hearts to thine.