GROUNDBREAKER LECTURE SERIES
Just as Georgia State has taken its innovative spirit to address major challenges facing society, including bridging gaps in diversity, equity and inclusion, the Groundbreaker Lecture Series recognizes those who have or who are changing the world. Through the series, the university honors individuals whose bold, brave actions have had a significant, positive impact that fundamentally advanced society for the better.
2023 LECTURE with Jelani Cobb
The Half-Life of Freedom: Race and Justice in America Today
Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism, and Dean,
Columbia Journalism School
Columbia University, New York
Wednesday, February 8, 2023
4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Student Center East
55 Gilmer St.
For reasons beyond the control of the communications staff, we are unable to livestream this event through this public website. Please contact [email protected] for further assistance.
About the Speaker
The Office of the Provost is pleased to announce the speaker of the 2023 Groundbreaker Lecture, Jelani Cobb, Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism, and Dean of the Columbia Journalism School on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023.
The event will be held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the State Ballroom in Student Center East, and is open Georgia State students, faculty and staff. Please register by clicking here or using button above this text. (A livestream will be available to Georgia State students, faculty and staff; register to obtain the link.)
Jelani Cobb is a staff writer at The New Yorker, writing on race, history, justice, politics, and democracy, as well as Columbia University’s Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism and next Dean of Columbia Journalism School. He recently co-edited The Matter of Black Lives, a collection of The New Yorker’s most ground-breaking writing on Black history and culture in America, featuring the work of legendary writers like James Baldwin and Toni Morrison. Publishers Weekly writes, “Beyond the stellar prose, what unites these pieces, which range widely in length, tone, and point of view, is James Baldwin’s insight, paraphrased by Jelani Cobb, that ‘the American future is precisely as bright or as dark as our capacity to grapple with [the legacy of racism].’” Cobb also edited and wrote a new introduction for The Kerner Commission—a historic study of American racism and police violence originally published in 1967—helping to contextualize it for a new generation. The condensed version of the report, called The Essential Kerner Commision Report, is described as an “essential resource for understanding what Cobb calls the ‘chronic national predicament’ of racial unrest” (Publishers Weekly).
During a historic election in the midst of a global pandemic, Cobb investigated allegations of voter fraud and disenfranchisement as a PSB Frontline correspondent in the documentary Whose Vote Counts, revealing how these unfounded claims entered the political mainstream. He clearly presents how racial inequities, COVID-19, and voter suppression became interlinked crises, contributing to a long legacy of inequality. For tackling one of the key issues at the heart of modern U.S. politics and carefully elucidating what the fight for voting rights looks like in the 21st century, Whose Vote Counts received a Peabody Award. Cobb was also the correspondent for the Frontline documentary Policing the Police, where he examined whether police reform is a viable solution in the wake of mounting protests calling for racial justice, and explored how we can hold police departments accountable. Previously, Cobb was prominently featured in Ava Duvernay’s 13th, her Oscar-nominated documentary about the current mass incarceration of Black Americans, which traces the subject to its historical origins in the Thirteenth Amendment.
Cobb is the recipient of the Hillman Prize for opinion and analysis journalism, as well as the Walter Bernstein Award from the Writer’s Guild of America for his investigative work on Policing the Police. He is the author of Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress, and To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic. He was appointed the Dean of Columbia Journalism School in 2022.
HONORING THE GROUND CREW
Barbara Pace Hunt, Iris Mae Welch & Myra Payne Elliott
The Groundbreaker Lecture Series was launched by the Office of the Provost at Georgia State University during February 2020 to honor three brave women — Barbara Pace Hunt, Iris Mae Welch and Myra Payne Elliott — who sued in the 1950s for their right to enroll and attend Georgia State’s predecessor institution.
In 1956, the predecessor of Georgia State University denied admission to nine black applicants, including Ms. Hunt, Ms. Welch and Ms. Elliott. The three women coordinated with the NAACP and local activists to file a suit against the state of Georgia and the Board of Regents and won in the groundbreaking decision known as Hunt v. Arnold in 1959. The case became the NAACP’s first federal court victory against segregated education in Georgia. Despite the legal victory, the women were still blocked from enrolling at Georgia State by the legislature and the Board of Regents. Further, the women faced bigotry from high-profile political leaders and personal threats from the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists.
For their courage and persistence in the face of segregation and hatred, Ms. Hunt, Ms. Welch and Ms. Elliott were groundbreakers. Their case helped establish key legal precedents for subsequent litigation against racial discrimination in higher education across the United States. Today, Georgia State confers more bachelor’s degrees to African American students than any other non-profit university in the country.
PREVIOUS SPEAKERS OF THE GROUNDBREAKER LECTURE SERIES
2022: Dr. Johnnetta Cole, President Emerita, Spelman College
Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, President Emerita of Spelman College and Bennett College for Women, spoke at the third annual Groundbreaker Lecture on Feb. 15, 2022.
Dr. Cole, the first African American woman president of Spelman College and later as president of Bennett College, is the only person to serve as president of both historically Black colleges for women in the United States.
She is an accomplished educator and museum professional, noted speaker and author on issues of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion, and a committed advocate for social justice. She currently serves as the National Chair and Seventh President of the National Council of Negro Women, an advocacy organization with more than 2 million members, working in the interest of women’s rights and civil rights.
Over the course of her career, she has held teaching and administrative positions in anthropology, women’s studies, and African American studies at several major universities.
After retiring from academia, Dr. Cole served as the Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art for eight years. Upon her retirement from the Smithsonian she received the title of Director Emerita. Following her years at the Smithsonian, Dr. Cole was a Principle Consultant with Cook Ross, a management consulting firm, where she co-led a Chief Diversity Officer Leadership Forum and worked with various companies to create more inclusive and equitable workplaces. As a Senior Consulting Fellow at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, she worked on initiatives on diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion in art museums and higher education.
Dr. Cole has a long history of community service. She was the first African American to serve as the Chair of the Board of United Way of America. Recently she was on the board of Martha’s Table, a nonprofit that supports children, families and communities in Washington, D. C. through quality education, healthy food and community support. She has also held leadership roles in a number of professional organizations, including the Association of Art Museums Directors where she served as the president and she co-led the American Alliance Museum’s Working Group on diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion.
Dr. Cole has served on the corporate boards of Home Depot, Merck, and Nation’s Bank South. And she was the first woman appointed to the board of Coca-Cola Enterprises. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a fellow of the American Anthropological Association, and a member of the Association of Black Anthropologists. She is a member of the, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., The Links, Inc., and a Life Member of NAACP.
2021: Dr. Peniel Joseph, Barbara Jordan Chair in Ethics and Political Values, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin
Dr. Peniel Joseph served as the second annual Groundbreaker Lecture speaker, held virtually on Feb. 11, 2021. Dr. Joseph is the Barbara Jordan Chair in Ethics and Political Values at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also the founding director of the LBJ School’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy (CSRD). His career focus has been on “Black Power Studies,” which encompasses interdisciplinary fields such as Africana studies, law and society, women’s and ethnic studies, and political science.
A Professor of Public Affairs, Dr. Joseph holds a joint professorship appointment in the LBJ School and the History Department in the College of Liberal Arts at UT-Austin.
Prior to joining the UT faculty, Dr. Joseph was a professor at Tufts University, where he founded the school’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy to promote engaged research and scholarship focused on the ways issues of race and democracy affect people’s lives.
In addition to being a frequent commentator on issues of race, democracy and civil rights, Dr. Joseph’s most recent book is The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. He also wrote the award-winning books Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America and Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama.
His book Stokely: A Life has been called the definitive biography of Stokely Carmichael, the man who popularized the phrase “black power.” Included among Joseph’s other book credits is the editing of The Black Power Movement: Rethinking the Civil Rights-Black Power Era and Neighborhood Rebels: Black Power at the Local Level.
Dr. Maurice C. Daniels, Dean Emeritus and Professor Emeritus at the University of Georgia's School of Social Work
At the inaugural event in 2020, which included a special ceremony to recognize Myra Payne Elliott, Barbara Hunt and Ida Mae Welch, Dr. Maurice C. Daniels, Dean Emeritus and Professor Emeritus at the University of Georgia’s School of Social Work served as lecturer. He discussed Ground Crew: The Fight to End Segregation at Georgia State, which detailed the story of these three brave women who sued for their right for an equal education at the predecessor institution of GSU.
Dr. Daniels is cofounder and director of The Foot Soldier Project for Civil Rights Studies, which was established in 1999. He is the author of Saving the Soul of Georgia: Donald L. Hollowell and the Struggle for Civil Rights (Georgia), and Horace T. Ward: Desegregation of the University of Georgia, Civil Rights Advocacy, and Jurisprudence. He is also the executive producer of four critically acclaimed public television documentaries on the civil rights movement.
Read more about this special event and what the women faced, and watch both the lecture recording and a mini-documentary about the “ground crew” whose bravery led to change, by clicking the button below.