(Video courtesy the WSB Television Newsfilm Collection of the Walter J. Brown Media Archives at UGA.)
On January 9th, 1961, Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter-Gault walked on campus to register at the University of Georgia. They were the first African American students allowed to do so. This Sunday will mark the 50th anniversary of that momentous day.
As captured in this video from Civil Rights Digital Library, Holmes and Hunter-Gault entered the Administration building amidst chants of “Two-four-six-eight! We don’t want to integrate!” Two days later, another crowd of white students would assault the dormitory in which Hunter-Gault was staying, hurling bricks and bottles until the police arrived. Holmes and Hunter-Gault would be removed from campus for a short period before finally returning to undertake their studies.
The story of the University of Georgia’s desegregation is as large as the courage of those two students. There are several resources available through the Digital Library of Georgia for learning about this pivotal moment in our state’s history.
Desegregation of Higher Education in Georgia (New Georgia Encyclopedia)
Below is a list of important figures (each link from the Civil Rights Digital Library contains a brief biography and links to materials about the person: photographs, videos, newspapers, etc…)
Horace T. Ward: He applied to the University of Georgia Law School in 1950 and was denied admission. He challenged the decision in court, and though unsuccessful, his efforts were the beginning of the end for segregation at the University of Georgia. Ward would eventually become the first African American in Georgia to be appointed a Federal Judge.
Hamilton Holmes (1941-1995)
Ernest Vandiver Jr. (1918-2005): Governor of Georgia from 1959 to 1963. Promised to maintain segregation as Governor, but ultimately refused to close the university as desired by Georgia lawmakers outraged over its desegregation.
Mary Frances Early: The first African American to graduate from the University of Georgia.
The DLG has a collection of Red and Black newspapers (the university student newspaper, independent since 1980) in which one can read coverage of the event. Here is a portion of the front page from that day: “Non-Violence Urged By Dean of Students In Campus Meeting.”
The Clifford H. (Baldy) Baldowski Editorial Cartoons collection at the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies contains work about the integration of UGA.
The Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library has a finding aid online for their collection: University of Georgia Integration Materials 1938-1965.
NPR has posted an interview with Charlayne Hunter-Gault in which she reflects upon the events of 50 years ago.
And finally, in honor of the anniversary, the University of Georgia has a series of events planned. A list is available here, for those in the area wanting to attend.