Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hunter-Gault Recalls First Steps onto White Campus

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hunter-Gault Recalls First Steps onto White Campus

Article excerpt

For CNN reporter Charlayne Hunter-Gault, the foam and fury of the political transition in South Africa contains echoes of her years at the University of Georgia (UGA), which today celebrates the 40th anniversary of its desegregation. Ms. Hunter-Gault was one of the first black students to attend the school.

She looked back at the time in a recent telephone interview:

What are your memories of that first night in the University of Georgia dorm?

In a real sense, those events helped to motivate my life. I remember walking under that archway [onto the campus], that it was a brisk January day, the coat I was wearing, the kind of blouse, socks, and boots. We were children of the black middle class, taught to present ourselves to the world as well turned out as we could.

The media will call me a pioneer, but I had a life before I went to the University of Georgia. And my values were already formed. But this was the test of all that armor that our family and our community had been piling on us through our values passed on to us through school and church.

What's most significant about that time?

UGA was the bastion of the old order. Everyone who protected and defended and perpetuated the old order went there. So for it to fall, led to every other bastion falling in its wake.

By the fall of 1961, high schools and elementary schools were being desegregated. It just opened up the whole state. I'm not sure I realized it was going to be that big. If I had thought about it, it might have been daunting. We did instinctively what we had to do to get through the rough patch, just get through the day. …

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