Lefever, Harry G. 1931–

views updated

Lefever, Harry G. 1931–


Born December 7, 1931, in Lancaster County, PA; son of Harry S. (a florist) and Mary (a housewife) Lefever; divorced; children: Kristina, Carla, Erika, Dimitri. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Eastern Mennonite College, B.A., 1955; University of Chicago, M.A., 1962; Emory University, Ph.D., 1971. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Society of Friends (Quaker). Hobbies and other interests: Reading, guitar, piano.


Home—Atlanta, GA. Office—Department of Sociology, Box 253, Spelman College, Atlanta, GA 30314. E-mail—[email protected]


Eastern Mennonite College, Harrisonburg, VA, faculty member, 1963-66; Spelman College, Atlanta, GA, professor of sociology, 1966-2003, chair of sociology department, 1975-92, professor emeritus, 2003—. Scholar-in-residence, New York University, 1996.

Wartime service: Served as a medical worker in Vietnam, 1956-59, as a conscientious objector.


Southern Anthropological Society, Association for the Sociology of Religion, Georgia Sociological Association, Alpha Sigma Lambda, Phi Beta Delta, Phi Beta Kappa.


Fulbright-Hays Scholarship, 1981; National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 1983; United Negro College Fund Distinguished Scholar Award, 1985; Presidential Award for Scholarly Achievement, Spelman College, 1991; Fannie Lou Hamer Achievement Award, Spelman College, 2000;


The House Church in the Twentieth Century: A Study of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Harrisonburg, Virginia, Presbyterian Church in the United States (Atlanta, GA), 1969.

Turtle Bogue: Afro-Caribbean Life and Culture in a Costa Rican Village, Susquehanna University Press (Selinsgrove, PA), 1992.

Undaunted by the Fight: Spelman College and the Civil Rights Movement, 1957-1967, Mercer University Press (Macon, GA), 2005.

Sacred Places: A Guide to the Civil Rights Sites in Atlanta, Georgia, Mercer University Press (Macon, GA), 2008.

Contributor to academic journals, including Anthropology and Humanism Quarterly, Atlanta Historical Journal, Journal of Black Studies, and the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.


Harry G. Lefever spent most of his career as a professor of sociology at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. His book Undaunted by the Fight: Spelman College and the Civil Rights Movement, 1957-1967 tells of the handful of women and faculty members who were active in the civil rights movement. Despite the fact that Spelman College is the nation's oldest and most prestigious college for African American women, its administration actively discouraged students from participating in civil rights activities and demonstrations—going so far as to expel Gwendolyn Robinson for her participation and arrest in a restaurant protest, although her expulsion was quickly overturned due to student backlash. Not so lucky were activist professors, most notably the iconoclastic Howard Zinn, who were fired for their outspoken support for civil rights.

Lefever introduces readers to the small minority of women who defied the college's expectations and fought for equality by participating in sit-ins, suffering arrest for passive resistance, encountering abuse in prison, and rising through the ranks of national organizations such as the Atlanta-based Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC; headed by the notoriously sexist Stokely Carmichael). Foremost among the Spelman activists was Ruby Doris Smith, a 1961 Freedom Ride participant who became the SNCC's executive secretary in 1966. Also profiled is Marian Wright Edelman, who joined Zinn for the second Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights in 1964, and later founded the Children's Defense Fund. Other students participated in the 1964 Freedom Summer effort to register voters in Mississippi and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1963 March on Washington, becoming witnesses to his "I Have a Dream" speech.

The book received good reviews for shedding light on what appears to be an ironic situation at the heart of civil rights. Among the book's strengths, according to Humanities and Social Sciences Online contributor Elizabeth Gritter, is its "international perspective on the civil rights movement and [Lefever's] discussion of intraracial politics," in addition to "his discussion of opposition within the African American community … in further revealing the many obstacles civil rights activists faced." Similarly, William C. Hine, reviewing the book for the Journal of Southern History, praised Undaunted by the Fight as "an excellent book that fits nicely into the growing literature of the civil rights movement."



Atlanta History, spring, 2006, Barbara A. Moss, review of Undaunted by the Fight: Spelman College and the Civil Rights Movement, 1957-1967, pp. 62-63.

Choice, October, 1992, O.N. Bolland, review of Turtle Bogue: Afro-Caribbean Life and Culture in a Costa Rican Village, p. 366.

Georgia Historical Quarterly, fall, 2006, Peter V. Levy, review of Undaunted by the Fight, pp. 312-14.

History of Education Quarterly, winter, 2006, Amy Thompson McCandless, review of Undaunted by the Fight, pp. 643-645.

Journal of Development Studies, January, 1993, Peter Wade, review of Turtle Bogue, p. 392.

Journal of Southern History, August, 2006, William C. Hine, review of Undaunted by the Fight, p. 718.

Reference & Research Book News, November, 2005, review of Undaunted by the Fight.


H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online,http://www.h-net.org/ (February, 2007), Elizabeth Gritter, review of Undaunted by the Fight.

About this article

Lefever, Harry G. 1931–

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article