In the years after the historic 1954 Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court ruling that (at least in theory) ended the practice of “separate but equal” treatment in educational institutions when it came to race, many schools were in the midst of complicated integration processes.
Some of those moments were caught on camera. There are the images of the Little Rock Nine in 1957 integrating an Arkansas high school and little Ruby Bridges in 1960 integrating a New Orleans elementary school with U.S. Marshals by her side. That moment was immortalized in a Normal Rockwell painting.
Now, we also have footage of another historic moment of integration. In 1961, the University of Georgia (UGA) became the first college in the deep South to integrate. In January of that year, a judge ruled that students Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter were “fully qualified for immediate admission” and “would already have been admitted had it not been for their race and color.”
Holmes and Hunter were Black students who excelled at their high school in Atlanta. Holmes was valedictorian and Hunter was third in their class. Up until the judge’s ruling, they had both been denied admission to UGA for more than a year.
The two students arrived on UGA’s campus just days after the court’s decision. The black and white news footage that is now available to the public was recorded during their first few days at the university.
The clips show Holmes and Hunter swarmed by reporters as they enter the admissions office and walk around campus. There are also mobs of angry white students screaming at Holmes and Hunter. According to WSB-TV in Atlanta, the students were chanting “Two-four-six-eight! We don’t want to integrate!”
Tension was so thick on campus that riots broke out and amazingly, Holmes and Hunter were suspended. While they had not participated in rioting in any way, the Dean of Students suspended them for “their own safety. Faculty members petitioned to get Holmes and Hunter back in school.
Both students graduated in 1963. Holmes went on to become an orthopedic surgeon and Hunter became an award-winning journalist for many prestigious publications such as the New York Times. The UGA building the two entered on that fateful January day in 1961 is now called the Holmes-Hunter Academic Building.
Head to WSB-TV to watch the historic integration footage.