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An Education in Georgia: Charlayne Hunter, Hamilton Holmes, and the Integration of the University of Georgia

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In January 1961, following eighteen months of litigation that culminated in a federal court order, Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter became the first black students to enter the University of Georgia. Calvin Trillin, then a reporter for Time Magazine, attended the court fight that led to the admission of Holmes and Hunter and covered their first week at the university-- In January 1961, following eighteen months of litigation that culminated in a federal court order, Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter became the first black students to enter the University of Georgia. Calvin Trillin, then a reporter for Time Magazine, attended the court fight that led to the admission of Holmes and Hunter and covered their first week at the university--a week that began in relative calm, moved on to a riot and the suspension of the two students "for their own safety," and ended with both returning to the campus under a new court order.Shortly before their graduation in 1963, Trillin came back to Georgia to determine what their college lives had been like. He interviewed not only Holmes and Hunter but also their families, friends, and fellow students, professors, and university administrators. The result was this book--a sharply detailed portrait of how these two young people faced coldness, hostility, and occasional understanding on a southern campus in the midst of a great social change.


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In January 1961, following eighteen months of litigation that culminated in a federal court order, Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter became the first black students to enter the University of Georgia. Calvin Trillin, then a reporter for Time Magazine, attended the court fight that led to the admission of Holmes and Hunter and covered their first week at the university-- In January 1961, following eighteen months of litigation that culminated in a federal court order, Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter became the first black students to enter the University of Georgia. Calvin Trillin, then a reporter for Time Magazine, attended the court fight that led to the admission of Holmes and Hunter and covered their first week at the university--a week that began in relative calm, moved on to a riot and the suspension of the two students "for their own safety," and ended with both returning to the campus under a new court order.Shortly before their graduation in 1963, Trillin came back to Georgia to determine what their college lives had been like. He interviewed not only Holmes and Hunter but also their families, friends, and fellow students, professors, and university administrators. The result was this book--a sharply detailed portrait of how these two young people faced coldness, hostility, and occasional understanding on a southern campus in the midst of a great social change.

30 review for An Education in Georgia: Charlayne Hunter, Hamilton Holmes, and the Integration of the University of Georgia

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    Originally written as a series of articles for the New Yorker in the early 1960s, this is very much a period piece now. The constant reference to "Negro" students or "Negroes" in general is really jarring, even though that was the appropriate reference of the day. The gulf between 1962 and my own matriculation at UGA less than twenty years later is astonishing. The book takes us back to the day when overt and institutional racism was barely beginning to yield in the fight for justice. The portrai Originally written as a series of articles for the New Yorker in the early 1960s, this is very much a period piece now. The constant reference to "Negro" students or "Negroes" in general is really jarring, even though that was the appropriate reference of the day. The gulf between 1962 and my own matriculation at UGA less than twenty years later is astonishing. The book takes us back to the day when overt and institutional racism was barely beginning to yield in the fight for justice. The portrait of the state of Georgia and its flagship university is not flattering. I don't blame this on Trillin; although his own attitudes are hidden behind a scrupulously neutral journalistic POV, I didn't get the impression that he was actually looking down on anyone. If the bureaucrats, administrators, and politicians appear contemptible, it's because they held attitudes and beliefs - common in the day - that we find contemptible now. But the book is focused squarely on what Trillin refers to (not ironically, I think) as the Student Heroes. There's something oddly appropriate about that title for Hunter and Holmes, because in the end they were students first, trying to get the best education for themselves they could. The fact that they chose a difficult path, and that their efforts made it easier for others, made them heroes second.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    Ham Holmes was one of my father's dearest friends. I knew when I was a child he was the first black man to go to the University of Georgia, but until I was an adult, I never really fully understood the struggles & alienations he endured. Despite the discriminations, he persevered. And there was not one ounce of bitterness in his body. Ultimately he blazed a path for the possibility of a brighter future for all. He was a wonderful husband, father, surgeon & friend. Ham Holmes was one of my father's dearest friends. I knew when I was a child he was the first black man to go to the University of Georgia, but until I was an adult, I never really fully understood the struggles & alienations he endured. Despite the discriminations, he persevered. And there was not one ounce of bitterness in his body. Ultimately he blazed a path for the possibility of a brighter future for all. He was a wonderful husband, father, surgeon & friend.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    I liked the subject but got bored with the writing. Book abandoned.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    Part of a campus read at UGA this month, this work recounts the integration of the university largely from the point of view of the two first African American students to attend--Charlayne Hunter, Hamilton Holmes, and Margaret Early. Each represent different tacts and backgrounds taken in the fight for equal rights, and each experienced the events in different ways reflective of those tacts and backgrounds. Early was a graduate student, so her experience was in some ways different from that of Hu Part of a campus read at UGA this month, this work recounts the integration of the university largely from the point of view of the two first African American students to attend--Charlayne Hunter, Hamilton Holmes, and Margaret Early. Each represent different tacts and backgrounds taken in the fight for equal rights, and each experienced the events in different ways reflective of those tacts and backgrounds. Early was a graduate student, so her experience was in some ways different from that of Hunger and Holmes, who tend to get more attention in the book (and, I find, in general). Hunter and Holmes went to the same high school, and both started off college somewhere else because of bogus rejections from UGA--Hunter went to Wayne State, Holmes to Morehouse. Once accepted at UGA, Hunter lived on campus, while Holmes lived at a family's house. Holmes came from a family who had long been part of the civil rights movement, and his decision to apply and attend seemed a much more conscious (and family motivated) choice with regard to furthering that agenda. Hunter largely stayed on campus, while Holmes went home to Atlanta each weekend. Holmes took his studies very seriously; Hunter did not seem as focused on study. As such, Holmes excelled at the school but had a much less social experience; Hunter became more integrated into the university's social fabric, such as she could (some students and most faculty appear to have treated her well, but those same students at times had to step away from friendships because of threats and pressure from their other white friends). Attending the university launched both Hunter and Holmes into their eventual professional fields. Holmes notes that while he did not enjoy his UGA years, his attendance allowed him the opportunity to attend Emory Medical School, which would not have been the case had he stayed on at Morehouse. Hunter would go on to become a renowned journalist, which is how I knew of her growing up in California, as she was often on PBS. Hunter's experience, as portrayed in the book, seems to be more about just trying to be a full-fledged person rather than an emblem of civil rights, though the two go hand in hand, since being treated equal as a person was the goal of civil rights movement. At the end of the book, for example, we learn that she married a white guy, something that she didn't want played up in media--this was her life, her love, her relationship, not something to be strutted out for some political end. And yet, it's impossible to separate the two when forces from outside raise the issue. Some of the most interesting parts of the book to me had to do with the other Black students, the ones who came slightly later. This is a point Holmes makes very strongly at a presentation he gives later: that if others don't come, his and Charlayne's and Margaret's efforts are wasted, as they become mere tokens. And indeed, as Trillin brings out, few tried to follow up, at least in those early years. Those who did included some younger female coeds who were pushed into Charlayne's room on campus--indeed, all the Black girls were pushed to live together and thus separately from other students. More interesting was the story of one young man who opted to live in the dorm, who took part in various extracurricular activities, and who began attending a white church in town. He seemed determined to live the typical college life--to some success and, as the book shows, to a degree of failure to. His is a story that I would like to hear about in more detail, but being sixth or so in the set of names of early integrators, he is not the focus of most people's attention.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Freeman

    I really enjoyed the style of Trillin's writing. His research and access to the main subjects, Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter, and their families are a testament to the trust he built. His patience as a true journalist paid dividends in a fine accounting of the story. I really enjoyed the style of Trillin's writing. His research and access to the main subjects, Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter, and their families are a testament to the trust he built. His patience as a true journalist paid dividends in a fine accounting of the story.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ellen Parker

    Purchased at Jackson Street Books in Athens, GA. Crazy to read about social unrest on the UGA campus, which was totally peaceful and felt very apolitical when I was there. Or maybe I didn't understand how recent the Civil Rights movement really was/is. Purchased at Jackson Street Books in Athens, GA. Crazy to read about social unrest on the UGA campus, which was totally peaceful and felt very apolitical when I was there. Or maybe I didn't understand how recent the Civil Rights movement really was/is.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marie Ipock

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kayla

  9. 4 out of 5

    Linda Larsen

  10. 5 out of 5

    Megan Ray

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca O'Tuel

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paul

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jim Hunter

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mike Votta

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nathaniel Holly

  17. 5 out of 5

    William

  18. 5 out of 5

    Elyse

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ellen Simon

  20. 4 out of 5

    Millie

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chance Grable

  23. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ginna Possehl

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brooke

  26. 5 out of 5

    Russ

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Heath

  28. 5 out of 5

    Robbie Steinbruegge

  29. 4 out of 5

    David

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alexa Arndt

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