Mizell and the AFSC

By Stephanie Gilbert

M. Hayes Mizell and Mary Berry, Assistant Secretary for Education, U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare

The M. Hayes Mizell Papers is an important collection that Digital Collections (Digi) is currently working on.  This Civil Rights collection consists of over 160 boxes which is the largest that Digi is currently digitizing.  These past few months I have been scanning box 111 which is a collection of speeches by, or connected to, Mizell from the 1960’s and 70’s.  As mentioned in my previous blog, Hayes Mizell was the Director of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).  The AFSC is mentioned frequently in the majority of speeches scanned, which led me to research a bit more about them and Mizell’s connection with the group in South Carolina.

“Founded in 1917, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action” (About us, n.d.).  Established during World War I, the AFSC allowed objectors to serve their country without violence.  “They drove ambulances, ministered to the wounded, and stayed on in Europe after the armistice to rebuild war-ravaged communities” (AFSC history, n.d.).  The promotion of peaceful communities was not only a worldwide goal, but also a goal for smaller areas, such as South Carolina.  “By 1966 [Mizell] had come to work for AFSC as the South Carolina field representative of what was called ‘the American Friends Service Committee–NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund School Desegregation Task Force’” (Mizell, 1973, p. 2).  As their representative, he worked with people in the community, met with federal officials, and advocated for desegregation in schools.  In a way, Mizell became a voice for people who could not be heard.  He spoke up for lower income communities and worked hard for students and teachers who faced racial segregation as well as encouraging them to stand up for their rights and demand equal opportunities.

Bettye Boone, Hayes Mizell, and Jackie Williams – Southeastern Public Education Program – Staff Training for Title I Project, c. 1970’s

Mizell’s work reached far beyond the Civil Rights era and is still influencing people today.  The University of South Carolina’s African American Studies Program offers the Hayes Mizell Research Award.  This is awarded to students in African American Studies who utilize the Mizell Collection for scholarly research.  Each of the two students chosen receives five hundred dollars to aid in their research and writing. I am over halfway done scanning the Mizell collection, with around fifty boxes to go.  Check back in March for an update on my progress!

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