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How a trailblazing, living legend played a pivotal role in UGA's integration

Hunter-Gault is a trailblazer, an acclaimed and award-winning journalist, and a living legend, especially for Black students at UGA

ATLANTA — Their names go hand-in-hand in history at the University of Georgia. Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes were the first students to desegregate the school.

While Holmes passed away in 1995, now more than 60 years later Hunter-Gault is still making a difference at the university and in the world. 

In January 1961, Hunter-Gault and Holmes stepped into history – desegregating UGA. Despite the governor's segregationist vow of "No, not one."

Hunter-Gault is a trailblazer, an acclaimed and award-winning journalist, and a living legend, especially for Black students at UGA. The long process of becoming a student herself didn't come easy, but now more than 60 years later she chooses to reflect on the good.

"When the students on the second floor were trying to agitate me and beating on the floor for three or four nights after I got there, I don’t know where they got the energy to do this, but they beat on the floor. I guess to disturb me, and I said in Summer of Soul, they weren’t disturbing me because I was listening to Nina Simone!," Hunter-Gault said. 

From a young age, she knew and was taught to take pride in herself and the people that helped her along the way.

"None of the things that went on really got to us, because what I say is our history was our armor and it protected us," she said. 

Hunter-Gault also has good memories and recalls good people from UGA that reinforced her belief that people shouldn't make generalizations about others no matter the differences. 

"There were a group of girls that came to my door one night and they had bags of groceries because they knew I had a kitchenette, they didn't, and they said 'We've come to cook dinner,'" she said. "They told me that they understood a lot of the attitudes because their own families had experienced those during what they called the holocaust, they were Jewish girls."

Now, she wants to see a coalition of generations of all ages working for a better tomorrow.

"Hate is hate. And if you’ve got it, it’s no respecter of color so we all have to be very careful about how we talk about other people, who are not the same as we are," Hunter-Gault said. 

So while she recognizes the past and the struggles of the world, she's still encouraged for the future.

"Because it's our history that has made us strong. And while there are ugly things in it, there are things that should give us hope," she said. 

Hunter-Gault has taken her career all over the world. She's currently working on a book called "My People," which will explore some of her coverage over the years. It's set to be released this fall.