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Inquirer Friend, Activist and COAHR Author Dr. Roslyn Pope Dies

Dr. Roslyn Pope – “Quiet Giant”
October 29, 1938 – January 19, 2023

“We do not intend to wait placidly for those rights which are already legally and morally ours to be meted out to us one at a time.”

Appeal for Human Rights author Dr. Roslyn Pope died on January 19, 2023.

Roslyn Pope was born in 1938 in Atlanta. She attended Spelman College and graduated in 1960. She had been president of Spelman’s Student Government Association (SGA). She earned a master’s degree and a doctorate degree. She served as a member of the Coalition on the Appeal for Human Rights (COAHR) and Atlanta chapter of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She went on to teach religion, music and English literature to college students in New York, Pennsylvania and Texas while raising two daughters.

The Coalition on the Appeal for Human Rights (COAHR) was a group of activists that planned a list or manifesto for Black Americans, called the “Appeal for Human Rights.” This appeal was quite controversial and adversary for the white segregationist majority… in the days when “Colored Only” signs and White Only” signs were commonplace and Blacks only had access to unequal establishments and opportunities, even though Plessy v. Ferguson had been overturned in 1954.

“It’s like losing a sister,” Reverend Dr. Otis Moss, Jr. says as he reminisces about Dr. Roslyn Pope, his dear friend and colleague of the Student Movement. Like Pope, Reverend Dr. Moss also was a strong participant in the Atlanta Student Movement and was revered as one of the spiritual voices of the Movement.

“She was so brilliant and committed. She was a very dedicated person.” “I just loved her,” says activist Judge Brenda Hill Cole.

While a student at Spelman College, Pope had spent a year abroad in Europe on a Merrill scholarship. Pope had mentioned that, while in Europe, she had a freedom that was different than her living in segregated Atlanta. There were no places that she could not go. She could participate in any programs that she wanted, eat wherever she wanted. When she returned to Atlanta and the Jim Crow South, she joined other student leaders like Lonnie King, Jr., Charles A. Black, Julian Bond, Wylma Long Blanding, Carolyn Long Banks, Alethea Boone, Dr. Herschelle Sullivan Challenor, Dr. Riggins R. Earl, Samuel Jolley, [Judge] Brenda Hill Cole, Constance Curry, Lydia Tucker Arnold, Valerie Levy, Lottie Watkins, Dr. Mary Ann Wilson-Booker to change history. They engaged the students of Morehouse College, Spelman College, Atlanta University, Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University), Morris Brown College, the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) to nonviolently participate in protests, boycotts and sit-ins to enact change for the betterment of life.

As the team deliberated and spoke of things they’d like to include in the “Appeal,” it was Pope that typed it. It was a detailed a set of grievances representing the rights that should be given to Blacks. It covered topics that dealt with education, jobs, medical treatment, public venues, voting, housing, and treatment by law enforcement officers.

The “Appeal” was published on March 9, 1960 as a paid advertisement in the Atlanta Constitution newspaper. It announced the formation of the Atlanta Student Movement, which strove to end racist Jim Crow laws and policies across the region and promote opportunities for minorities. Soon afterwards the New York Times and the Congressional Record also printed the “Appeal.” The Atlanta Student Movement was one of the primary impetuses that launched what grew nationally into the Civil Rights Movement.

Many of the college and university student leaders of the Council on the Appeal for Human Rights, along with some parents and business leaders that agreed with the students, helped to form and work for The Atlanta Inquirer newspaper. Many parents and adults in the 1960s did not agree with the liberal students’ message and didn’t think that they should actively and openly protest the status quo for minorities of that day and age. Newspapers, including the Black publication Atlanta Daily World (published since the 1930s) did not agree with the students. The Atlanta Inquirer, first published at the end of July 1960, quickly became the voice of the Student Movement.

While the Appeal was adopted by Civil Rights and human rights activists throughout the country, it was heavily denounced by segregationists like Georgia Governor Samuel Ernest Vandiver who was Georgia’s governor from 1959 to 1963. The struggle for the young Civil Rights activists was indeed real. Even as politicians turned over or were elected, racist ideals and white supremacist views continued to domineer Atlanta’s landscape and Georgia’s landscape. Known segregationist Lester Garfield Maddox, Sr. was elected as Georgia governor in 1967 and served until 1971.

As schools, colleges, businesses and the political arena slowly desegregated, “white flight” ensued. White residents and businesses quickly moved from major cities as Blacks became more engaged with educational, business and political opportunities. Many still feel that “white flight” was protest against integration and against the disenfranchisement of Black Americans. Students’ families boycotted segregated stores and theaters and staged sit-ins… all committing to nonviolence. Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. soon joined their movement.

Last updated on January 20, 2023

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