Campus News Society & Culture

Hunter-Gault to pay tribute to Mandela during UGA Charter Lecture, March 31

Charlayne Hunter-Gault 50th anniversary talk-h
Charlayne Hunter-Gault speaks to UGA students in 2011 during the university's celebration of the 50th anniversary of its desegregation.  

Athens, Ga. – Award winning journalist and author Charlayne Hunter-Gault, the first African-American woman to attend the University of Georgia, will return to her alma mater on March 31 to deliver a Charter Lecture titled “Reflections on Nelson Mandela.”

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, begins at 11:15 a.m. in the Chapel on North Campus.

“Charlayne Hunter-Gault is one of the towering figures in the history of the University of Georgia, and one of its greatest advocates,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “Her role in the integration of UGA opened the doors of public higher education to tens of thousands of students. We are honored that she is returning to campus to deliver the Charter Lecture.”

Hunter-Gault, who graduated from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication in 1963, has worked in several of the nation’s top print and broadcast news outlets and has been honored with several awards, including two Emmy Awards and three Peabody Awards. In 1997, she became the chief correspondent in Africa for National Public Radio. She joined CNN in 1999 as its bureau chief and correspondent in Johannesburg, South Africa and returned to NPR as a special correspondent in 2005. In 2007, she published the book “New News Out of Africa: Uncovering Africa’s Renaissance” and in 2012 published “To the Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement.” The lecture will broadcast live on channel 15 of the university and Charter cable systems and streamed live at

“Charlayne Hunter-Gault knows a lot about courage; her life and her career have exemplified it,” said Pamela Whitten, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “So it is particularly fitting that she is returning to campus to deliver a Charter Lecture that reflects on the life of Nelson Mandela, one of the world’s most courageous leaders.”

After graduating from UGA, Hunter-Gault joined the staff of The New Yorker. She later worked as a reporter and evening news anchor for a Washington, D.C. television station and then for a decade as a reporter for The New York Times. She joined PBS’s MacNeil/Lehrer Report in 1978 and for two decades was a national correspondent for what is now the PBS NewsHour. She has lived in Johannesburg, South Africa, since 1997 and interviewed Mandela on several occasions and at a number of pivotal moments-including shortly after his release from prison in 1990 and just before his election as president of South Africa in 1994.

In addition to her Emmy and Peabody Awards, Hunter-Gault has received the Journalist of the Year Award from the National Association of Black Journalists and in 2005 was inducted into the NABJ Hall of Fame. She has been honored with an American Women in Radio and Television award, and her human rights reporting has been recognized by Amnesty International. She holds more than three dozen honorary degrees and is on the board of the Carter Center and the Committee to Protect Journalists. She is co-chair of the African Media Initiative, an organization that works to strengthen the continent’s private and independent media sector, and was formerly a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Hunter-Gault’s first book was a memoir published in 1992 about her childhood and years at UGA titled “In My Place.” She has returned to campus on numerous occasions since her graduation.

In 1985, UGA created the annual Holmes-Hunter lecture in honor of her and the late Hamilton Holmes, who registered for classes on the same day as Hunter-Gault and was the first African-American man to be admitted to UGA. In 1988, Hunter-Gault became the first African American to deliver the university’s commencement address. In 1992, she and Holmes established an academic scholarship for black students at UGA. In 2001, the campus building where Hunter-Gault and Holmes registered for classes was renamed the Holmes-Hunter Academic Building to mark the 40th anniversary of the university’s desegregation. A decade later, Hunter-Gault donated her papers to the university’s Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies as part of the university’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of its desegregation. She currently sits on the board of the George Foster Peabody Awards, which are administered by the Grady College and are the oldest honor in electronic media.

The Charter Lecture Series was established in 1988 to honor the high ideals expressed in the 1785 charter that created UGA as the first state-chartered university in America. Previous speakers have included U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, biologist Edward O. Wilson, literary critic and scholar Henry Louis Gates, and geographer and author Jared M. Diamond. For a list of past Charter lecturers, see