University of Georgia Marks 40th Anniversary Of DesegregationAthens, Ga.
‘Two-four-six-eight! We don’t want to integrate!” were the chants from the crowd that greeted Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes — the first two African American students to integrate the University of Georgia 40 years ago Jan. 9.
To mark the 40 years since UGA was desegregated, the university has planned several events to commemorate the historical event, including a renaming of the Academic Building where both students registered for classes in 1961. The building will now be called the Holmes-Hunter Academic Building.
Charlayne Hunter-Gault, now the South African bureau chief for CNN, will return to campus Jan. 9 to speak at a symposium that also will include a roundtable discussion about events and issues surrounding desegregation.
Symposium participants will include members of her legal team, plus then-Gov. Ernest Vandiver and two key members of the Georgia General Assembly at the time. Journalists who covered the legal case and the arrival on campus of Hunter and Holmes will participate in an afternoon roundtable.
The effort to desegregate the university began years before Hunter and Holmes won admission. During the 1950s, Horace Ward filed suit to enter UGA’s School of Law. Ward, who eventually earned his law degree from Northwestern University, later served as co-counsel on the Holmes-Hunter legal team. He will be part of the roundtable discussion, along with Constance Baker Motley, then of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Both became federal judges.
Years passed before Holmes or Hunter-Gault returned to campus, but in 1979 Hunter-Gault came back to do a documentary on the evolution of race relations in Georgia since she had been a student. She visited again in 1981 to join the alumni advisory board of the journalism school. In 1988, 25 years after her own graduation, she was asked to give UGA’s commencement address.
Holmes, meanwhile, agreed in 1981 to be involved in planning the university’s bicentennial celebration. Two years later, he accepted an appointment as a trustee for the UGA Foundation. In conjunction with the bicentennial, the Holmes-Hunter lectureship was established in 1985, and each year thereafter Holmes attended the lecture series, always accompanied by family members.
In 1992, Hunter-Gault also returned for the lecture, delivered that year by Jesse Jackson. It was the last time Hunter-Gault and Holmes appeared at UGA together. Holmes died in October 1995 at age 54.
For more information on the 40th anniversary, visit UGA’s Web site at <www.uga.edu/news> or <www.uga.edu/news/desegregation>.
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