Elwood, key figure in
U.Va.s desegregation, dies
by Michael Marshall
A. Elwood poses in front of a scene from a 1934 film by Charles
Hamilton Houston, seen doffing his hat, which Houston made
to document inequities in the Souths segregated school
systems. Houston is the central figure in a documentary Elwood
produced that traces the legal campaign to destroy Jim Crow
laws. The piece won the 1990 American Film Festival Award
for Best Film on Black History.
A. Elwood, 70, longtime English
professor and Arts
& Sciences administrator who throughout his career tirelessly
sought to end racial discrimination, died April 27 after a battle
who retired in 1996, worked both behind the scenes and on the
front lines for civil rights causes locally and nationally. In
the early 1990s, he worked closely with more than 200 students
to produce an award-winning documentary film about the history
of school desegregation, The Road to Brown.
native of Evanston, Ill., Elwood was a graduate of Northwestern
University and received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.
After joining the U.Va. faculty in 1964, he helped recruit black
students and faculty. In 1969 President Edgar F. Shannon Jr. appointed
him as a special assistant to oversee programs to help African-American
students have a smooth transition into the college experience
Renaissance literature scholar, Elwood also wrote articles on
such subjects as substandard housing and served with numerous
community projects, including Madison House, the Charlottesville
Social Development Commission and the Charlottesville Housing
Improvement Program. As associate dean of the Graduate School
of Arts & Sciences for more than two decades, he was instrumental
in establishing and strengthening African-American affairs programs
and scholarly centers at the University.
no formal filmmaking experience, he doggedly researched and personally
helped to finance the 1990 public television documentary, The
Road to Brown, out of a determination to reach a wide audience
with an important little-known piece of civil rights history.
The film documents the untold story of Charles Houston, a black,
Harvard-trained lawyer who began fighting for equal rights in
the 1930s but died before seeing some of his work result in the
landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education.
attributed his involvement in the civil rights movement to a growing
personal awareness of racial bias in the 1950s and 60s.
In 1999 he was honored with the Charlottesville Martin Luther
King Jr. Community Service Award.
is survived by his wife Mary Ann Wilder Elwood; two sons, John
Elwood of Dallas and James Elwood of Huntersville, N.C.; two sisters,
and five grandchildren.
A memorial service was held April 30. The family requests that
memorial contributions be made to the Legal Aid Justice Center,
617 W. Main St., Charlottesville 22901.