62 years after the the first Black students were admitted, a UGA professor reflects on progress
LISTEN: Decades later, the University of Georgia has not kept pace with many of the state’s other large public universities when it comes to Black enrollment, GPB's Sarah Kallis reports.
As University of Georgia students head back to campus, a professor is remembering the bravery and hardships of the first Black students to be admitted to the Athens college over 60 years ago.
Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes were admitted to UGA in 1961 following a legal battle. A third student, Mary Frances Early, was admitted later that same year.
Dr. Maurice Daniels, dean emeritus and professor emeritus of University of Georgia’s school of social work, said those students made great sacrifices to be there.
"It involved some very brave and courageous and determined students who were willing to, in some cases, place their personal safety at risk in order to fight for the good cause and make it possible for Black people to be able to attend public institutions in which their tax monies were contributing to support," he said.
Daniels said that the students did have support from a community that rallied around them.
“They were 18 years old, and so they had tremendous support from their parents, from their aunts and uncles, their siblings, their community.," he said. "And there was a kind of solidarity within the community at that time that supported those students."
Another source of support was Horace Ward. Ward, an attorney who worked on Hunter and Holmes’ case, was denied admission to UGA Law School years prior.
Today, the university has not kept pace with many of the state’s other large public universities when it comes to Black enrollment. The school has just 8% Black students while Georgia State has 42%.
Daniels said that the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to end affirmative action walks back on the efforts made by Hunter, Holmes, Earley and Ward — especially considering that Black students were barred from UGA for over 175 years after its founding in 1785.
"[UGA] admitted its first three Black students in 1961," he said. "And it's mind-boggling to see how one could say that we cannot take that history into account in terms of trying to redress past discrimination."