Director Emeritus of Cox Center Publishes Book on First Election of African-Americans to State Legislature

Dr. Al Hester, director emeritus of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research at the University of Georgia, has just published a book that details the election of two ex-slaves from Clarke County, where the University of Georgia is located, to the Georgia House in 1868.

"Enduring Legacy: Clarke County, Georgia's Ex-Slave Legislators Madison Davis and Alfred Richardson", has been released by Green Berry Press and is available at local booksellers or on

Michael Thurmond, who became the first African-American elected to the Georgia House since 1868 wrote the forward to the book. Thurmond is Georgia Labor Commissioner and was a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Georgia in 2010.

Ex-slaves Davis and Richardson defied death threats, the Ku Klux Klan and much of Athens' white population to become the first black representatives to serve from Clarke County after the Civil War.

Dr. Hester recounts the fight by Madison Davis and Alfred Richardson to win their election in April, 1868, as Republican candidates. Many whites in Clarke County boycotted the election, or couldn't vote because they had not sworn loyalty to the U.S. government after the Civil War.

Newly freed black citizens turned out in large numbers to give these men a strong victory two times, allowing them to serve two terms in the Georgia Assembly.

The pair was sworn in on July 4, 1868, but attempts began immediately to expel them from the Legislature, under the rationale that blacks could vote but couldn't serve in political office.

Davis survived this effort because he was considered not more than one-eighth black. Richardson, however, despite being a mulatto, was expelled. It took a re-occupation of Georgia by federal troops to revoke the expulsions of black members of the Georgia House and Senate.

The 282-page book is $23.95. It contains nearly three dozen photos and engravings concerning the Reconstruction period and the two legislators.

Dr. Hester was founding director of the Cox Center in 1985 and served until his retirement from the University in 1997. The Cox Center is the international outreach unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

In his retirement, Dr. Hester has founded Green Berry Press and written for magazines. He and his wife, Conoly, also wrote Athens, Georgia: Celebrating 200 Years at the Millenium.