Holmes and Charlayne Hunter-Gault at The University of Georgia
this WSB clip from May 30, 1967, Hamilton
speaking from Emory
University, where he is enrolled in medical
school. He discusses his role in one of the most influential
events to occur on a college campus: the integration
of the University of Georgia. Six years earlier, Holmes and Charlayne
Hunter-Gault had become the first two African American
students admitted to the University, one of many segregated southern
When they initially tried to apply
in the Winter Quarter of 1959, they were not accepted because
of “limited space.” Holmes attended Morehouse
College with a full
scholarship, but continued to re-submit applications every quarter,
in hopes of gaining access to the University's better science
facilities. Walter Danner, the University Registrar , wrote
a letter to President Aderhold, recommending that Aderhold only
admit transfer students who needed to leave their present school
in order to complete their degrees, or freshman who had never attended
college. Holmes fit neither of these categories and was rejected.
On September 2, 1960, Holmes and Hunter-Gault filed
a civil suit against Danner for the repeated refusal of their application.
Finally, their complaints went to trial and Judge William
Bootle issued a ruling stating that Holmes and Hunter-Gault “would have
already been admitted had it not been for their race and color.”
UGA finally accepted them, and they registered for classes on January
9, 1961. Click here to see that day’s issue of Red
While Holmes and Hunter-Gault registered for classes, over 100 students
stood outside the building chanting “2, 4, 6, 8, we don’t want to
integrate.” Just three days later, a riot broke out in front of
Myers, Hunter-Gault’s dorm (Holmes lived off campus). The plethora
of students that lashed out by throwing rocks, bottles, and fireworks
was so violent that “the local police had to use tear gas in an
effort to control the assembly.” Click here to read what Red and
Black columnist Terry Hazelwood said in an editorial after
The riot sparked a mass uproar of varying opinions.
Issues concerning thoughts of segregation and integration flooded
campus. Thomas Brahana, a UGA math professor, asked his students
to write an in-class essay about their feelings regarding integration;
much of their feedback vacillated between positive and negative.
One perplexed student inquired, “What I don’t understand is why
we don’t mind eating with a Negro in the kitchen but we wouldn’t
want to eat with him in our dining room” (Essay 1). Another student
pointed out, “The Negroes in the South definitely live at a lower
status than most whites, but the reason for this is that the whites
have kept them at this low level. I can’t see how people who call
themselves citizens of a democracy allow these conditions to exist”
students wanted segregation upheld. One who opposed the general
enforcement of equal rights and opportunities for African Americans
wrote, “The Negroid race is mentally and morally inferior to the
Caucasian race” (Essay 8).
The day after the riot, Dean William Tate sent a letter suspending
Hunter-Gault and Holmes from the university for reasons concerning
“their personal safety.” Their suspension did not go over well
with some faculty, who risked their jobs by signing a resolution demanding
Hunter-Gault's and Holmes's immediate readmission.
By January 16, 1961, the students had been readmitted to the University.
Perhaps students today would question,
as does the interviewer in this WSB clip, whether the harassment
and social isolation that Holmes and Hunter-Gault
endured was worth the effort. Statistics have indicated that
longterm, positive change resulted from the students' struggles.
In 1961, only two African American students were enrolled
at The University of
Georgia. In 2006 there were 380 African American
students in the first-year class, and approximately one thousand
of the five thousand incoming first-year students were racially
and ethnically diverse.
1. What did your parents and or grandparents think of integration
in their schools, and also what were their opinions of integration
2. What have you, as a student, personally gained by going to
a school that is now integrated? Is your school truly integrated
or are there still signs of segregation on different levels?
3. What more could be done in both your school and community to
educate its members and citizens on the importance of cultural diversity
and differences between people of different races?
4. Dictionary.com defines affirmative action as “a policy
designed to redress past discrimination against women and minority
groups through measures to improve their economic and educational
opportunities.” Read our story on the Macon
NAACP's encounter with the Bibb County Board of Commissioners over
the institution of affirmative action practices in city government. What
are your thoughts on the subject, and what is your opinion on affirmative
action as a policy to redress discrimination?
it to the Streets!
Divide into two groups. Once the groups have been formed, declare
one group in support of Affirmative
Action, and one group against
it. Spend a week or two researching Affirmative Action cases
in your state. Formulate
a two-page position paper that defends your group’s side of the
case. Conclude with a classroom debate, moderated by your teacher,
on the validity of Affirmative Action.
Group Members: Laura Ryan, Bobby Thompson, Emily Doyle, Christina
Smith, Heather Adams, Ashley Elam, Claire Noonan