Spelman, the historically Black women’s university located in Georgia’s capital, is where she wound up. And, ironically, it wound up providing her a cultural awakening after all. “The notion of identity and the way I situated myself as a young person, as a Black person, as a Southerner, as a woman—they were all challenged,” she told Vogue. “I could experiment and fail in ways that were larger than my family but that weren’t going to ruin my life.”
Spelman marked the first time Abrams was so widely immersed in Black life and culture outside her own home. It also introduced her to the world of politics. When the school hosted a town hall with Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson, the first Black man elected to lead a major Southern city, she didn’t hold back.
“I berated him for not doing enough for young people,” she recalled to the Post of their exchange, which was broadcast on local TV. “I was very irate and then…I gave them my number, and I gave my parents’ number. ‘[Here’s] where I’m going to be, if you have any questions.'”
Jackson wanted to know what she thought she knew. Abrams let the trailblazing mayor know that she’d been attending city council meetings and zonings. She also told him she thought he wasn’t doing nearly enough. Despite this—or, maybe even because of it—when Jackson created an Office of Youth Services the following year, Abrams was the only undergraduate college student hired.