The courage and sacrifice of Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes 60 years ago might be termed “good trouble” today, however their heroic actions were complicated and divisive in 1961. Thanks to their steadfast resolve to attend class at the University of Georgia, they broke down barriers, opened the door to progress and created opportunities for generations to come by desegregating the university.
January 9 is the milestone anniversary when Hunter (now Hunter-Gault) started her quest for a journalism degree and Hamilton Holmes started his studies in science on his way to a career in medicine and healthcare administration.
Hunter-Gault’s impact is immense according to Charles Davis, dean of Grady College.
“The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, ‘There is nothing more majestic than the determined courage of individuals willing to suffer and sacrifice for their freedom and dignity,’” Davis quoted. “Charlayne Hunter-Gault’s courage, selflessness and most importantly, love for others and for UGA continue to amaze. She always answers the call, every time. I’ve never known another person who lifts me up in quite the same way. Majestic is a good way to describe her.”
Hunter-Gault is well-known for her legacy at UGA, but her legacy at the College is equally important continued Davis. A few of her many contributions to the College include regular visits to interact with students; faculty support through the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer in Residence, held by Valerie Boyd; service as a former board member of the Peabody Awards; and co-benefactor along with her husband, Ron, of the Giving Voice to the Voice Fund. The fund provides grants to those amplifying stories that need to be told.
Hunter-Gault continues to inspire students and young alumni today. Recent graduate Ashley Carter (AB ’20) worked on the UGA Black Alumni Oral History Project through the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library that was funded by the Giving Voice to the Voiceless grant.
“Charlayne Hunter-Gault and the late Hamilton Holmes, I cannot explain how thankful I am for your bravery when you stepped on the University of Georgia’s campus for the first time,” Carter said. “That set the tone for years to come and students like myself who have graduated, and students who are still being admitted, we thank you. We appreciate you.”
Following graduation with a journalism degree in 1963, Hunter-Gault started her impressive career, first on the staff of “The New Yorker,” followed by The New York Times, PBS’s “MacNeil/Lehrer Report” and what is now the “PBS NewsHour.” She has served as chief correspondent in Africa for National Public Radio, as well as bureau chief and correspondent in Johannesburg, South Africa, for CNN. Hunter-Gault has written several books including “In My Place,” which will be the featured book in March for the UGA Alumni Association’s Between the Pages virtual book club. Hunter-Gault has been honored with several awards, including two Emmy Awards and two Peabody Awards, including her coverage of Africa for NPR.
Her work has inspired numerous journalists, including some of the College’s most notable alumni like Deborah Roberts (ABJ ‘82), Ernie Johnson (ABJ ‘78) and Monica Pearson (MA ’14).
“I owe a debt of gratitude to you and Hamilton Holmes for paving the way for me at UGA,” said Roberts, a national correspondent for ABC, in a message to Hunter-Gault. “I wouldn’t be here at ABC News if it weren’t for you two. I stand on your shoulders, and my success is your success.”
January 9, 2021, marks the start of a series of events at the University of Georgia to mark the progress that has been made and the continued work to create a more inclusive and welcoming campus. The anniversary celebration will continue for the next several months and includes a series of events in celebration of Hunter-Gault, Holmes and Mary Frances Early who transferred to UGA as a graduate student and was the first Black student to graduate from UGA in 1962.
Grady College is in process of hosting several events in association with the 60th Anniversary of Desegregation. Grady Newsource has produced a half-hour documentary about the impact of Hunter-Gault and Holmes that is expected to air in February. On Feb. 4, Grady will sponsor a virtual Campus Read event hosted by the UGA Press and featuring author Calvin Trillin. Trillin is the author of “An Education in Georgia: Charlayne Hunter, Hamilton Holmes, and the Integration of the University of Georgia,” and the conversation will be moderated by Valerie Boyd, the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer in Residence and Grady faculty member.
Please visit UGA’s 60th Anniversary of Desegregation website for a complete list of events.