Panel discussions to focus on legal issues, historical significance of UGA’s desegregation

January 5, 2011

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Athens, Ga. - Two panel discussions on the University of Georgia's desegregation 50 years ago will take place Jan. 10-11 on campus.

"We believe that it's very important for students to know about this history-even though we are five decades removed from 1961," said Derrick Alridge, director of the Institute for African American Studies and co-chair of the 50th Anniversary of Desegregation Committee. "The desegregation of UGA ushered in an era of change that paved the way for UGA to become a world-class university."

A panel discussion about the legal issues involved in UGA's desegregation and progress the university has made over the past five decades will be held Jan. 10 at 5 p.m. in Masters Hall of the Georgia Center for Continuing Education Conference Center and Hotel.

Participants will include Horace Ward, the first African American to challenge UGA's discriminatory admissions policies after being denied admission to the School of Law in 1950, and Robert Benham, who was one of the first African Americans to receive a law degree from UGA in 1970 and later became the first African-American chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court.

Specifically, the group will discuss Ward's experiences with his court case and the court case surrounding Hamilton Holmes' and Charlayne Hunter-Gault's 1959 application to UGA. Ward, currently a senior district judge, served on Holmes' and Hunter-Gault's legal team. He also is the first African American to sit on the federal bench in Georgia.

"Horace Ward was the first African American to apply to the School of Law and his case helped pave the way for Hamilton and Charlayne's case to come along a few years later," Alridge said.

The panel discussion "Chronicling UGA's Desegregation" will be held Jan. 11 at 4:30 p.m. Room 101 of the Miller Learning Center.

It will feature five authors who have written about the desegregation. From UGA's faculty, the authors are Maurice Daniels, dean of the School of Social Work, who wrote Horace T. Ward: Desegregation of the University of Georgia, Civil Rights Advocacy and Jurisprudence; Robert Pratt, a history professor who chronicled UGA's desegregation in We Shall Not Be Moved; and Thomas Dyer, a history professor emeritus who included a chapter on the event in his bicentennial history of UGA.

Robert Cohen, professor of history and social studies at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, who also has written about UGA's desegregation in the Georgia Historical Quarterly; and Calvin Trillin, who wrote An Education in Georgia and was a reporter for Time magazine at the time of the desegregation, also will participate in the discussion.

"These are the most prominent scholars on UGA's desegregation," said Alridge. "Their scholarship comprises the major historiography of UGA's desegregation."

Betty Jean Craige, director of the Willson Center for the Humanities and Arts and University Professor of Comparative Literature, will moderate the discussion. She will ask about the importance of UGA's desegregation in the history of the university and higher education in the U.S., about students reaction to the presence of Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes and about when white student attitudes toward black students and faculty begin to change.

For more information about the desegregation of UGA and anniversary events, see http://desegregation.uga.edu/.

 

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