Saving the Soul of Georgia
Donald L. Hollowell and the Struggle for Civil Rights

Maurice C. Daniels
Foreword by Vernon E. Jordan Jr.

The first biography of a pivotal but unsung hero of the Civil Rights movement


“Donald Hollowell—a brilliant and courageous lawyer known as Georgia’s ‘Mr. Civil Rights’—has long deserved a biography to match his talents. In Saving the Soul of Georgia, this lion of the civil rights movement finally receives what he has so richly deserved. Daniels’s book is a magnificent contribution to the literature on the black freedom struggle and the local lawyers who helped sustain it.”
—Tomiko Brown-Nagin, author of Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement, winner of the Bancroft Prize

“Maurice Daniels’s compelling biography of Donald Hollowell shines light on a pioneer attorney whose work in the trenches was absolutely essential to the civil rights movement. Hollowell was the preferred attorney for the student activists pushing the struggle forward, his contributions ranging from the back roads of Georgia to federal courtrooms, from plotting legal strategy to negotiating and advising. Daniels gives us a wonderful portrait of an important civil rights activist and adds another layer to our understanding of what it took to create a successful movement.”
—Emilye Crosby, editor of Civil Rights History from the Ground Up: Local Struggles, a National Movement

"Not nearly enough has been written or is widely known about the giants on whose shoulders President Obama is fond of saying he stands. One of those giants is Donald L. Hollowell. Hollowell's shoulders offered more than legal representation. When one of us needed reassurance or bail or defense, he was always there, day or night. Students used to sing, 'King is our leader; Hollowell is our lawyer. And we shall not be moved.' What my generation and the generations to come need to help us keep our eyes on the prize is a book like Saving the Soul of Georgia: Donald L. Hollowell and the Struggle for Civil Rights. It should be required reading for every teacher and student in America, so that they can know that freedom is not free and understand what it takes to bring us closer to a more perfect union."
—Charlayne Hunter-Gault, journalist and author of To The Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement

"This compelling biography of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s chief attorney in Georgia during the 1950s and 1960s delivers on the promise of its title. . . . With his close attention to court proceedings, Daniels penetrates the often-dense tangle of legal procedures. . . . In Daniels's hands, court proceedings come to life with a narrative accessible to lawyers and nonlawyers alike. . . . The inclusion of twenty-seven carefully selected photographs further brings to life one of the best biographies of the civil rights era."
—Polly J. Price, Journal of American History

"Daniels's book make a point that needs emphasis: that embedded within the grassroots movements that now occupy much scholarly attention were thousands of everyday legal confrontations. . . . A well-researched account that explores much-neglected aspects of the history of the civil rights movement. From the grassroots to the apex of the movement, the author shows how scholars can move beyond the conventional narrative arcs of the freedom struggle, but how difficult it is, in the end, to escape their force."
—Kenneth W. Mack, American Historical Review

“Dean of the School of Social Work and founder of the Foot Soldier Project for Civil Rights Studies at the University of Georgia, Daniels is well qualified to write about Georgia’s civil rights lawyers. This book will remind teachers and scholars of [Hollowell’s] wider importance to both Georgia history and American legal history.”
—Sarah H. Brown, Journal of Southern History

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Donald L. Hollowell was Georgia’s chief civil rights attorney during the 1950s and 1960s. In this role he defended African American men accused or convicted of capital crimes in a racially hostile legal system, represented movement activists arrested for their civil rights work, and fought to undermine the laws that maintained state-sanctioned racial discrimination. In Saving the Soul of Georgia, Maurice C. Daniels tells the story of this behind-the-scenes yet highly influential civil rights lawyer who defended the rights of blacks and advanced the cause of social justice in the United States.

Hollowell grew up in Kansas somewhat insulated from the harsh conditions imposed by Jim Crow laws throughout the South. As a young man he served as a Buffalo Soldier in the legendary Tenth Cavalry, but it wasn’t until after he fought in World War II that he determined to become a civil rights attorney. The war was an eye-opener, as Hollowell experienced the cruel discrimination of racist segregationist policies. The irony of defending freedom abroad for the sake of preserving Jim Crow laws at home steeled his resolve to fight for civil rights upon returning from war.

From his legal work in the case of Hamilton E. Holmes and Charlayne Hunter that desegregated the University of Georgia to his defense of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to his collaboration with Thurgood Marshall and his service as the NAACP’s chief counsel in Georgia, Saving the Soul of Georgia explores the intersections of Hollowell’s work with the larger civil rights movement.

A Sarah Mills Hodge Fund Publication

Page count: 296 pp.
21 b&w photos
Trim size: 6 x 9

Read more about Donald Hollowell at the New Georgia Encyclopedia.


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Maurice C. Daniels is dean and professor of the School of Social Work at the University of Georgia and is founder and director of The Foot Soldier Project for Civil Rights Studies. He is the author of Horace T. Ward: Desegregation of the University of Georgia, Civil Rights, and Jurisprudence and executive producer of a number of civil rights documentaries.