A fresh look at the Father of Georgia, from slave trader to abolitionist


— Author Michael Thurmond visits Peachtree City Library June 20 —

Author Michael Thurmond. Photo/Photo Credit: Ben Rollins Photography.
Author Michael Thurmond. Photo/Photo Credit: Ben Rollins Photography.

Peachtree City Library will welcome DeKalb County CEO and 2023 Georgia Library Champion of the Year Michael L. Thurmond on Thursday, June 20, 2024, at 2 p.m. in the Floy Farr Room, when he will talk about his latest book, “James Oglethorpe, Father of Georgia: A Founder’s Journey from Slave Trader to Abolitionist” (UGA Press, 2024).

Thurmond’s Oglethorpe book has received ample media coverage on outlets such as C-SPAN, NPR, GPB, AJC, WSB-TV, and Georgia Trend Magazine. Free tickets are available for the Peachtree City event at https://ptclibrary.eventbrite.com

Founded by James Oglethorpe on February 12, 1733, the Georgia colony was envisioned as a unique social welfare experiment. Administered by twenty-one original trustees, the Georgia Plan offered England’s “worthy poor” and persecuted Christians an opportunity to achieve financial security in the New World by exporting goods produced on small farms.

Most significantly, Oglethorpe and his fellow Trustees were convinced that economic vitality could not be achieved through the exploitation of enslaved Black laborers.

Due primarily to Oglethorpe’s strident advocacy, Georgia was the only British American colony to prohibit chattel slavery prior to the American Revolutionary War. His outspoken opposition to the transatlantic slave trade distinguished Oglethorpe from British colonial America’s more celebrated founding fathers.

“James Oglethorpe, Father of Georgia” uncovers how Oglethorpe’s philosophical and moral evolution from slave trader to abolitionist was propelled by his intellectual relationships with two formerly enslaved Black men.

Oglethorpe’s unique “friendships” with Ayuba Suleiman Diallo and Olaudah Equiano, two of eighteenth-century England’s most influential Black men, are little-known examples of interracial antislavery activism that breathed life into the formal abolitionist movement.

Utilizing more than two decades of meticulous research, fresh historical analysis, and compelling storytelling, Michael L. Thurmond rewrites the prehistory of abolitionism and adds an important new chapter to Georgia’s origin story.

Michael L. Thurmond is the chief executive officer of DeKalb County, Georgia. He is the author of “James Oglethorpe, Father of Georgia; Freedom: Georgia’s Antislavery Heritage, 1733– 1865”; and “A Story Untold: Black Men and Women in Athens History.”

Thurmond has previously served in the Georgia legislature, as director of Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services, Georgia Labor Commissioner, and as superintendent of DeKalb schools. In 1997, Thurmond became a distinguished lecturer at the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government. He lives in Stone Mountain, Georgia.