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Black History Month: Two students who changed the face of UGA 63 years ago

It was 63 years ago when the first Black students enrolled at the University of Georgia.

On. Jan. 9, 1961, Hamilton Holmes and Charlene Hunter-Gault walked up the stairs of the academic building and became the first Black students to enroll at the university.

They became targets of harassment and many consider them trailblazers in the Civil Rights Movement.

They stood calm and courageous in the face of grave danger.

“I can still see in my mind’s eye, the events of January 1961, and the feelings I had about them,” Hunter-Gault told Channel 2 Action News.

Their admission to UGA, following a court order, sparked riots by those opposed to desegregation.

“Not even on the night of that riot did I permit myself to think any harm would come to me, not even after the brick came crashing through my dormitory window,” Hunter-Gault recalls.

Both students had to be temporarily removed from campus for their safety.

UGA administrators hailed the heroic students for breaking down barriers for minority students in Georgia and across the South.

“It can’t be lost on us that these were young people in their twenties, who were doing this and were deciding that this was important enough for them to put themselves at personal risk,” Michelle Cook, UGA Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, said.

“We are able to stand on their shoulders and build our shoulders up for others,” Alton Standifer, Vice Provost for Inclusive Excellence and Chief of Staff to the Provost, added.

Holmes went on to become a renowned orthopedic surgeon at Grady Memorial Hospital. Hunter-Gault is an international award-winning journalist.


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