Look Forward Georgia examines Pulitzer Prize winning work and civil rights in Georgia

As the country remembers Martin Luther King Jr. and his impact on the civil rights movement, a new website examining his influence and that of many other Georgians has been launched. “Look Forward: A Digital Exhibition on Civil Rights and the Pulitzer Prize in Georgia,” a grant project produced by a team from the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, has unveiled LookForwardGA.org.

The project documents Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism and literature from Georgia that promoted civil rights. The project was created in partnership with Georgia Humanities and was funded by a grant from the Pulitzer Prize Centennial Campfire Initiatives, a joint venture with the Federation of State Humanities Councils, in  recognition of Pulitzer’s centennial celebration.

Journalist and Pulitzer Prize winning historian Hank Klibanoff will speak at the official launch of the exhibition on Jan. 13 at 11:15 a.m. in Studio 100 at Grady College. Klibanoff, a contributor to Look Forward Georgia, will speak about “The Past is Never Dead: Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases and Why They Matter.” The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will follow.

The team instrumental in the creation of the Look Forward Georgia project include Jamil Zainaldin, president of Georgia Humanities; Kelly Caudle, vice president of communications for Georgia Humanities; Laura McCarty, executive vice president for Georgia Humanities; Jason Lee Guthrie, PhD candidate in Mass Communication at Grady College and Look Forward project curator; and Janice Hume, Carolyn McKenzie and Don E. Carter Chair for Excellence in Journalism at Grady College and Look Forward general editor.

Over the past 100 years, about half of the Pulitzer winners with ties to Georgia won for work that specifically promoted civil rights, making it a natural focus of the project.

“We believed civil rights was the most important focus and the most important connection between journalism, in particular, and the Pulitzer project and the state,” said Janice Hume, the Carolyn McKenzie and Don E. Carter Chair for Excellence in Journalism at Grady College and general editor of the Look Forward project. “We had this idea for a digital exhibition that would be a permanent exhibition for students and for scholars and that was the genesis of the project.” 

LookFowardGA.org includes a multi-media collection of oral histories, photographs, videos and information about the civil rights movement in Georgia, all of which are tied to Pulitzer Prize-winning work. The website features a timeline, visual artifacts and a map of Georgia connecting events together geographically.

"Dignity, freedom, equality — they all find their way into the Pulitzer stories represented on the Look Forward site," said Jamil Zainaldin, president of Georgia Humanities. "For certain, these Georgia stories are national stories, even global stories. The power of such a resource is evident."

The project curator was Jason Lee Guthrie, a Grady College Ph.D. student who conducted most of the interviews, pulled together all the material and designed the website.

"The way we've designed it is to be very accessible to the social media generation,” Guthrie said. “Everything is multi-media and sound bite clips."

The project also draws on the expertise of several people with close ties to Grady College including E. Culpepper “Cully” Clark, dean emeritus, who talks about Ralph McGill’s Pulitzer for editorial writing won in 1959; Valerie Boyd, associate journalism professor and the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer-in-Residence, who talks about Alice Walker’s Pulitzer for “The Color Purple;” and Akili-Casundria Ramsess, director of the National Press Photographers Association housed at Grady College, who discusses Moneta Sleet Jr.’s Pulitzer for photography in 1969. Boyd also served as cultural editor and Clark served as historical editor for the project. LaShonda Eaddy, a Ph.D. student, contributed material about the desegregation of UGA.

Video content was gathered from the WSB-TV collection in the Walter J. Brown Media Archives and the Peabody Awards Collection. Archival holdings at the University of Georgia Special Collections Libraries and Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library were also featured in the project.

Other interviews with Pulitzer Prize winners included Klibanoff, who co-wrote “The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle and the Awakening of a Nation”; Cynthia Tucker, who won a Pulitzer in 2007 for commentary; and Mike Luckovich, who won Pulitzer Prizes in 1995 and 2006 for his editorial cartoons in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Events, like the publication of “Gone with the Wind,” and organizations, like The Columbus Enquirer-Sun, are also presented through the Look Forward website.

“It really is like a little museum,” Hume added.  “Around every corner there's a little nugget of something that is really interesting and cool.”

“My hope is that we can get the word out because I really do feel that this is kind of our gift to high school and undergraduate history and journalism students,” Hume continued. “It really shows what journalistic courage is all about.”

Guthrie echoes that sentiment. “There's a certain level of empathy that you can only achieve by knowing the history of an issue. I hope that we have done something significant to take the massiveness of that history and really just find a way to communicate it to the next generation in their language in a way that's meaningful to them. I hope we have been able to do that and maybe inspire them to read Pulitzer Prize winning work and maybe a few of them to go on to write some Pulitzer winning work.” 

For more information about LookForwardGA.org, please visit the website, or view its social media feeds on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @lookforwardga.