The University of Georgia to Mark the 50th Anniversary of Its First Black Graduate

The University of Georgia will hold a celebration honoring the 50th anniversary of its first Black graduate. On August 16, 1962, Mary Frances Early earned a master’s degree in music education at the university. Just a year earlier, Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes became the first Black students at the university. On the day the two Black students began classes, riots protesting the racial integration of the university erupted outside of Hunter-Gault’s dormitory.

Early, a native of Atlanta earned a bachelor’s degree at what is now Clark Atlanta University in 1957. She began graduate study at the University of Michigan but transferred to the University of Georgia in the summer of 1961, several months after Hunter-Gault and Holmes had racially integrated the Athens campus. Early completed her master’s degree in one year.

Early went on to teach music in the Atlanta public schools Also, she was an adjunct professor at Spelman College and Morehouse College. Later, she chaired the department of music at Clark Atlanta University.

Early will give a speech as the ceremony honoring her pioneering achievement.

“I feel richly blessed to have had the opportunity to play a role in UGA’s desegregation,” said Early. “I am even more blessed to still be here to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my graduation. It was, however, not just a victory for me-but also for all African Americans who followed me and received degrees. We have all benefited from this milestone; UGA also benefited in opening its doors to all qualified students who desire to study. Today’s diversity of students, faculty, administrators and staff has served to enrich our university, our state and nation.”

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