Professor at Georgia Southern University Composes Opera Based on a 1941 Racial Confrontation Involving the University’s President and the Governor of Georgia

A new opera entitled A Scholar Under Siege recently was performed at Georgia Southern University. The opera was composed by Michael Braz, a professor of music at Georgia Southern University, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the educational institution.

The opera deals with the 1941 confrontation between then Georgia governor Eugene Talmadge and Georgia Southern University president Marvin Pittman. Talmadge fired Pittman because he believed that the university president favored the racial integration of Georgia higher education.

One lyric sung by the character portraying Governor Talmadge is, “We don’t need no Negroes and white people taught together. I’m not gonna put up with any social equality in this state as long as I’m governor.” Another character with a singing role in the opera is Mose Bass, a black custodian at the university.

Braz refused to use the word “nigger” in the lyrics despite the fact that Governor Talmadge used it often. Braz holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Miami and a Ph.D. from Florida State University.