Campus News

UGA’s first African-American graduate to be honored at desegregation anniversary observance

Mary Frances Early
Mary Frances Early taught and supervised music for 37 years in Atlanta public schools. She also taught music at Spelman and Morehouse colleges and chaired the music department at Clark Atlanta University.

Athens, Ga. – UGA’s first African-American graduate, Mary Frances Early, will be honored with a community reception Jan. 13 at 1 p.m. in the cafeteria of J.J. Harris Elementary Charter School, 2300 Danielsville Road.

She also will be the featured speaker at the eighth annual Freedom Breakfast on Jan. 14 at 7:30 a.m. in the Grand Hall of the Tate Student Center.

Open to the public, the reception is hosted by the College of Education and the Institute for African American Studies. The elementary school’s orchestra and chorus will perform. A group from UGA’s Hugh Hodgson School of Music also is scheduled to perform. Nancy Denson, mayor of Athens-Clarke County; Andy Horne, dean of the education college; Derrick Alridge, director of the Institute for African American Studies; and Xernona Thomas, the school’s principal, are among those who will give remarks. Early also will speak briefly.

“We wanted to host the event in the community because of Ms. Early’s commitment to public education,” said Jenny Penney-Oliver, a senior academic professional in counseling and human development and a member of the event’s planning committee.

Early also is a graduate of the College of Education where she earned her master’s degree in music education in 1962. She went on to receive a specialist degree in 1971.

Early taught music, band and chorus for 37 years in Atlanta public schools. She retired in 1994 to become an adjunct music professor teaching music appreciation at Spelman and Morehouse colleges. She went on to chair the music department at Clark Atlanta University for eight years before retiring again in 2005.

J.J. Harris Elementary Charter School was chosen for this event because the school is a professional development partnership school with the College of Education.

The next day Early will speak on “Celebrating Courage” with a focus on the works of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Freedom Breakfast.

Held in conjunction with the national King holiday, the breakfast is sponsored by UGA, the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government and the Clarke County School District. This year’s theme is “The Power of the Dream: Celebrating Courage.”

UGA President Michael F. Adams will present the President’s Fulfilling the Dream Awards to individuals from the university, Athens-Clarke County and surrounding areas who strive to make a reality of King’s dream of equality and justice.

Both events are part of the observance of the 50th Anniversary of the Desegregation of the University of Georgia. For more information, see