Cities: Athens

Charlayne Hunter

Charlayne Hunter and her classmate Hamilton Holmes graduated at the top of their class from Atlanta’s Turner High School. She was editor of The Green Light, the school newspaper, a member of the student council, and homecoming queen. Hunter was accepted to and enrolled in Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. While attending Wayne State she continuously applied to UGA each quarter with hopes of being admitted to its prestigious Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. Lawyers for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) supported her campaign to enter the University and pressed for her admission. Finally, on January 6, 1961, a federal court ruled that The University of Georgia had to admit Holmes and Hunter because both were fully qualified to attend and thus entitled to enroll.

Hunter established a successful career as a journalist, news anchor, and reporter. She moved to South Africa in 1997, along with her husband, Ronald Gault, to serve as a correspondent for National Public Radio and as Johannesburg, South Africa’s bureau chief for CNN. She has helped raise HIV/AIDS awareness and funds to provide affordable anti-retroviral drugs. She also has collaborated with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), a court-like body assembled at the end of apartheid to bear witness to and record crimes relating to human rights. Using her experiences in the Civil Rights Movement of the United States, Hunter-Gault has continued working for human rights and peace for every race.

As a result of the integration of the University in 1961, enrollment of African Americans has grown from two out of 8,647 students in 1961 to 2,228 out of 32,812 in 2006.  Hunter-Gault's commitment to serving humanity demonstrates how the fight against oppression is global.  Scholars in various disciplines have studied what they call the African diaspora, which is the community of people of African descent worldwide who have been displaced by slavery and who, in spite of linguistic and historical differences, may bridge those distinctions in order to come together over shared economic, political, and cultural interests of mutual benefit. Hunter-Gault's outlook on public service, and especially her concern with relations between Africans and African Americans, reflects an African diasporic sensibility.

Suggested Resources (click here)

Discussion Questions

1. What may have led Hunter-Gault, upon her return to The University of Georgia in 1969, to claim that racism remained prevalent?  

2. How do you think that Hunter-Gault’s experiences at UGA may have influenced her work in South Africa? Do you foresee your educational circumstances and experiences influencing you as you choose a career?

3. Does it surprise you that an institution of higher learning would resist integration instead of embracing it? Did students, teachers, and parents resist the integration of southern schools equally intensely but for different reasons? Finally, do you think that integration would have occurred at UGA if the courts had not intervened?

4. Visit The University of Georgia's web site dedicated to the 40th anniversary of the school's integration.  On the site, a University alumnus, Robert B. Hirsch of the Class of 1962, recalls the following: "One thing that I have always wondered about was the fact that a black graduate student was in . . . sociology class before the arrival of Hunter and Holmes. I don't know if she was from the United States or an exchange student from another country."  If there were black students from foreign countries admitted to the University before 1961, why do you think there was such an outcry over the admission of two African American students?

Take it to the Streets!

Read the online excerpt of Mitchell J. Chang's article entitled Who Benefits from Racial Diversity in Higher Education?  Then divide a blackboard, whiteboard, or flip chart into two sections.  Make two lists: one of places or circumstances where difference and diversity may not prove beneficial, and the other of places and circumstances where diversity is an advantage. Based on these ideas, compose a journal entry that considers one or two specific examples of your experiences of diversity in college or school and whether or not you think these encounters helped or hindered you.  Invite your fellow students to share their journal entries by reading them aloud to the rest of the class.  

Writers: Kathryn Bane, John Harris, Noele Hart, Jenny Stein, and Aidan Wolpin in Professor Barbara McCaskill's ENGL 2400 (Survey of Multicultural American Literature), at The University of Georgia, Spring 2007.                             

Editors and Researchers: Kamille Bostick, Christina L. Davis, Mary Boyce Hicks, and Professor Barbara McCaskill                                               

Web Site Designer: William Weems

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