Cities: Athens

Hamilton Holmes at UGA

In this WBS video clip filmed on May 30, 1967, reporter Gloria Crowe interviews Hamilton Holmes about his experiences at The University of Georgia. Then enrolled at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Holmes reflects on his experience integrating the University four years earlier and describes his matriculation as one of positive growth rather than one of strife. 

Holmes initially erolled to study science and medicine at Morehouse College, but continued to fight for admission to The University of Georgia.  With the support of the NAACP and the Atlanta Committee of Cooperative Action (ACCA), in 1961 he and Charlayne Hunter became the first African American students to integrate the University's student body. After his admission, Holmes was the target of staunch resistance from UGA students and the Athens community. Protest marches held in downtown Athens included white mobs that yelled racial epitets in an effort to convince Holmes to enroll elsewhere. Confederate flags symbolizing the white supremacy of the South hung from windows of fraternities on campus, and warning signs outside of dorms read, “Turn back Negro.”  After these protests died down, Holmes developed a small, close-knit community of friends, including the brothers of the national honors fraternity, Phi Beta Kappa. He devoted himself diligently to his studies, and graduated cum laude with a Bachelors of Science in pre-medicine.

In 1983, The University of Georgia asked Holmes to serve as the first African American on the Board of Trustees of the University of Georgia Foundation. This foundation’s mission was to promote higher education by providing scholarships, funding research, and establishing facilities on the campus. He and Hunter were honored in 1985 with the establishment of the annual Holmes-Hunter lecture series, in which a distinguished African American speaker is invited to campus to discuss issues pertaining to social justice and diversity. To culminate the 40th anniversary celebration of the University's desegregation, administrators named the Holmes-Hunter Academic Building

Suggested Resources (click here)

Discussion Questions

1. Read the stories Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter at UGA and Charlayne Hunter in the Freedom on Film Athens pages. Both Holmes and Hunter wanted the best educations they could acquire in the state, and for them that meant attending UGA. On the other hand, the NAACP and other organizations selected Holmes and Hunter from many students to serve as test cases to integrate the school. To what extent do you think Holmes and Hunter were motivated to enroll at UGA for political reasons? To what extent, and how, did internal politics influence decisions made by leaders and organizations in the Civil Rights Movement?

2. Read the story Georgia's Evolving State Flag in the Atlanta pages. The Confederate flag is a controversial symbol in this state. To some, it is a throwback to an era where African Americans were considered to be and treated as second-class citizens. To others, the flag is a statement about heritage, about the independence of white southerners, and the pride that white southerners have in their land, their history, and their communities. The Confederate flag has been so provocative that in 2003 the legislature removed it from the Georgia state flag.  What do you think the new state flag means, and is it truly representative of all of Georgia's citizens? Are the debates about including the Confederate stars and bars meaningful and important, in your opinion?

3. The experiences of Holmes and Hunter differed because of their gender.  For example, while Hunter was required to live on campus, Holmes could and did reside off campus with the Killian family. To what extent do you think gender influenced the students' experiences?

Take it to the Streets!

Create a photo essay about an important American social justice movement.  Include ten to twelve photos with a short synopsis. Choose photos of events, places, and people that you think were significant in the movement.  Begin by choosing from one of the movements listed below:

Student’s Rights
Women’s Suffrage
Civil Rights
American Revolution
Abolition
Women's Liberation
Anti-Lynching
United Farm Workers
Gay Rights
Immigration Rights

Writers and Researchers: Lindsey Bartell, Katie Jo Gray, Robbie Miller, and Larson Moody in Professor Barbara McCaskill's ENGL 2400 (Survey of Multicultural American Literature) at The University of Georgia, Spring 2007. 

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

Web Site Designer: William Weems 

Freedom on Film is not responsible for the content of external web sites.