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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Riots oppose integration at the University of Georgia, January 11 1961

Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes arrive to register for classes at the University of Georgia, January 9. 1961.

On January 11, 1961, white students at the University of Georgia rioted in opposition to the enrollment of its first two Black students, Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes.

Hunter and Holmes had first applied for entry into the university in 1959 but had been refused admittance on the false grounds that there was a "lack of space". This continued until January 6, 1961 when a federal judge ordered that the two students be admitted.

On January 11 the two attended their first day of classes and that evening white students rioted outside of Charlayne Hunter's dormitory building.

...a large, angry crowd of students, marching behind a [racist] banner, shattered windows in the dormitory of Charlayne Hunter, who along with Hamilton Holmes had just broken the color line at UGA. Only hours before the riot, Hunter and Holmes had completed their opening day of classes as Georgia's first African-American students. For more than two hours the rioters used bricks, firecrackers, beer bottles, matches, and their fists to vent their violent opposition to racial integration.

The university suspended Hunter and Holmes, as opposed to any of the rioters, claiming this was for their own protection. Shamefully they were driven away by police that night and taken to Atlanta.

Two days later, the same federal judge, William A. Bootle ordered them readmitted again and, despite all the threats and attacks, they went back to class January 16. They graduated together four years later. Holmes became an orthopedic surgeon and Hunter a journalist.

A reminder of the long, violent history of institutionalized racism in the United States -- a history that is regularly whitewashed -- as well as of the tremendous courage of those who resisted it.


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