"An Atmosphere of Fear": One Man's Death in the Civil Rights Struggle in Terrell County, Georgia Open Access

Kelly, Mary Claire (2014)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/1r66j161p?locale=en


By 1958, the Civil Rights Movement was heating up. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 had passed the year before, schools were forcibly desegregating and sit-ins and other forms of nonviolence protest were popping up across the South. That year, a black man named James Brazier was brutally beaten to death by white policemen in Dawson, Terrell County, Georgia. His death, among other incidents, propelled the sparsely populated rural county of Terrell, Georgia into the national spotlight for its excesses of police brutality and the suppression of the black vote. The federal government stepped into the community, ultimately unable to force lasting change. As the Albany Movement attracted media attention to nearby Dougherty County, Terrell County ignited in racial tensions brought on by the arrival of workers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Community. While local blacks decided whether to join or avoid the struggle for equal rights, James Brazier's widow would embark on her own civil rights mission. Under a southern legal system in which white-on-black crime rarely secured a conviction, Hattie Brazier would team up with prominent civil rights leaders to pursue justice for her husband's death against the protectors of local white supremacy. She would sue Dawson and Terrell County law enforcement officials for depriving her husband of the most basic civil right: the right to life.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:

Introduction: Threats.....1

Death and Violence.....9

Pursuit of Justice.....24


Taking the Stand.....40

Conclusion: Defeat.....47


About this Honors Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files