On this day in 1961, Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes, the first black students enrolled at the University of Georgia 2 days earlier, were suspended. This was after thousands of white people violently rioted. They were initially denied enrollment but a federal judge ordered their admission. Hamilton simply wanted to become a doctor. Charlayne simply wanted to become a journalist. Both agreed that the University of Georgia had the classes they needed to reach those goals.
But when they graduated from Henry McNeal Turner High School in Atlanta in 1959. Holmes as valedictorian and Hunter (now Hunter-Gault) as third in their class it wasn’t quite that simple. Both Hunter and Holmes applied to UGA for the fall 1959 quarter but were denied. Holmes was accepted to Morehouse College, and Hunter enrolled at Wayne State University in Detroit, but they continued to submit applications to UGA each quarter. Eventually Hunter and Holmes became the first black students to attend UGA, but that is just the beginning of their stories.
On January 9, 1961, thousands of white people violently rioted because Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes registered at the University of Georgia, becoming the university's first Black students. Their enrollment came days after federal judge William Bootle ordered the university to admit them, ending a two-year administrative and legal fight to integrate the school. When Ms. Hunter and Mr. Holmes arrived to register for classes they were met by nearly 100 white students opposing their admission.
The crowd grew in the coming hours and the opposition escalated into full-scale riots, involving nearly 2,000 white students, local residents, and Ku Klux Klan members. The rioters set fires outside Ms. Hunter's dormitory, hurled rocks inside, and yelled racist epithets. At least one student in the dormitory was injured by a flying object. After several hours, campus officers, city police, and local firefighters quelled the riot.
In response to this violent white mob, composed of many white students from the university, officials forced Ms. Hunter and Mr. Holmes to withdraw from the university and Georgia state troopers escorted them home. White student leaders gloated at their victory, and one cited the University of Alabama's violent reaction to the enrollment of Autherine Lucy in 1956 as inspiration for their own demonstration. Days later, Judge Bootle ordered the university to readmit Ms. Hunter and Mr. Holmes. They both completed their studies in 1963, becoming the first Black undergraduate students to graduate from the University of Georgia.