Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia will mark the 50th anniversary of its desegregation with a series of events starting on Jan. 9-the date in 1961 when Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter (now Hunter-Gault) became the first African Americans to register for classes-and continuing for 50 days through Feb. 28, the end of Black History Month.
Hunter-Gault will return to campus for a kick-off reception on Jan. 9 that also will include the family of the late Hamilton Holmes and Mary Frances Early, who transferred to UGA as a graduate student in the summer of 1961 and the next year became the first African American to earn a degree when she received her master’s in music education.Holmes and Hunter-Gault graduated in 1963.
The reception, which is free and open to the public, will be from 6-8 p.m. in the Grand Hall of the Tate Student Center.
On Jan. 10, Hunter-Gault will deliver a 50th anniversary lecture at 3 p.m. in Mahler Auditorium of the Georgia Center for Continuing Education Conference Center and Hotel.Overflow seating will be available in Masters Hall, with a live video feed.
A panel discussion of the legal issues involved in the university’s desegregation will follow in Masters Hall at 5 p.m. Participants will include Horace Ward, who first challenged UGA’s discriminatory admissions policies after being denied admission to the School of Law in 1950, and Robert Benham, who earned a law degree from UGA in 1970 and later became the first African-American chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court.Ward, who served on Holmes and Hunter’s legal team, was appointed a U.S. District Judge in 1979 and is currently a Senior District Judge.
At 8 p.m., the premiere campus screening of a documentary on Donald Hollowell, who led the legal team that secured admission for Holmes and Hunter, will be held in Masters Hall.The documentary was produced by Maurice Daniels, dean of the School of Social Work, and Derrick Alridge, director of the Institute for African American Studies.
Hunter-Gault also will participate in a conversation with students in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, from which she earned her degree, on Jan. 11.The event will be recorded.The Grady College is promoting a college-wide read of her 1992 memoir In My Place prior to her return to campus.
Also on Jan. 11, noted poet, author and activist Sonia Sanchez will participate in a dialogue moderated by Valerie Boyd, the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Writer-in-Residence in the Grady College, and featuring poet Reginald McKnight, who holds the Hamilton Holmes Professorship in English.The event is at 2 p.m. in the Grand Hall of the Tate Student Center with a reception and book-signing following.
Another panel discussion is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. that day in 101 Miller Learning Center with UGA faculty authors Maurice Daniels, who wrote a biography of Horace Ward; Robert Pratt, who chronicled UGA’s desegregation in We Shall Not Be Moved; and Thomas Dyer, who included a chapter on the event in his bicentennial history of UGA.Joining them will be 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.
The week concludes with the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Breakfast with Mary Frances Early as the speaker. Co-sponsored by the university, the Athens-Clarke County Government and the Clarke County School District, the event will be at 7:30 a.m. Jan. 14 in the Grand Hall of the Tate Student Center.Advance reservations are needed and should be made through the Office of Institutional Diversity (706/583-8195).
Early also will visit with students at J.J. Harris Elementary Charter School on Jan. 13 for an event sponsored by UGA’s College of Education and the Institute for African American Studies.
Additional details about these and the many other events planned throughout January and February are available on the 50th anniversary of desegregation website (desegregation.uga.edu), which also includes historical information as well as “milestones and achievements” of the past 50 years.
“We really want to encourage the campus community and the local community to participate in this landmark occasion,” said Cheryl Dozier, associate provost for institutional diversity, who co-chairs the planning committee with Derrick Alridge. “There are so many ways to do so and we are excited to see the creativity being shown by UGA departments and student groups in finding ways to celebrate the courage of Hamilton Holmes, Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Mary Frances Early, as well as those who supported them and those who have followed in their footsteps.”