In the early 1960s, Charlayne Hunter-Gault helped demolish thesegregation laws that held many hostage. No black student had ever been admitted to the Universityof Georgia in its 176-year history. Although Charlayne was neither “morally or intellectuallyundesirable,” the university would not permit her to attend. The first great barrier was todefeat this strictly white privilege.
So, on January 9, 1961, Charlayne Hunter-Gault setfoot on campus and “bravely integrated the all-white University of Georgia.” With thehelp of the NAACP and Educational Fund, Charlayne won the right to attend. Three days after thecourt order, Gault and fellow activist Hamilton Holmes “walked on to campus and intohistory.” As expected, they were greeted “by mobs of white students who ... would hurlepithets, burn crosses and Black effigies, and finally stage a riot outside [her] dormitory.”Although state police stood guard, they did little to help the new students. When she arrived ather room she was welcomed by a broken window and a rock on the floor.
It wasn’t longbefore the university suspended Hamilton and Charlayne for their own well-being. The struggleagainst years of society’s mores in the South would be a long and hard ordeal. Many thoughtthis was the end of the fight, but it was actually just the beginning of what would becomeGeorgia’s entry into the civil-rights revolution.
The younger generationwould force the South to give up the horrific Jim Crow laws. Charlayne Hunter-Gault’s dreamwas to become a journalist, and neither her gender nor her race would hold her back, “for noone told [her] not to dream and when the time came to act on that dream [She] would not letanything stand in the way of fulfilling it.”
Charlayne Hunter-Gault fought for hercivil rights by challenging unjust laws. By achieving her dream, Charlayne opened the door forothers to follow into a non-segregated country.
Editor’s Note: Allquoted material is from Hunter-Gault’s autobiography, In My Place.
Hunter-Gault isnow the Johannesburg, South Africa bureau chief for CNN. She is a former national correspondent forPBS and NPR.
Hunter-Gault has won two Peabody Awards and two Emmies for her work injournalism. Last year, she was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists’Hall of Fame.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.