Charlayne Hunter-Gault Talks About Desegregating UGA

6:01 PM, Feb 17, 2012   |    comments
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Charlayne Hunter-Gault

Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- Each year as we celebrate Black History Month we reflect on people who have made a difference in the world, and often times those figures in history are no longer with us.

But one living legend sat down with News19 to talk about her life.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault made it possible for countless African-American students to attend the University of Georgia and pursue their dreams.

Born in Due West, South Carolina, she eventually made a lasting impact on the state of Georgia and the world of journalism.

"I think what was important for us at the time, was to do what we wanted to do to fulfill our dreams, and I think that were were determined that nothing was going to stand in the way of it. But I think we just thought we were doing the right thing for ourselves, at the time and what was right in general," said Hunter-Gault.

Stepping onto the University of Georgia campus 51 years ago, Hunter-Gault says she didn't know she'd be stepping into history too.

"We didn't even think about that, I don't think I even focused on that until many years later," she said.

Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes attended school together and decided that pursuing an education at UGA would help Hunter-Gault become a journalist and Holmes reach his goal of becoming a doctor.  

She says she and Holmes toured Georgia State University, but found the curriculum lacking, at the time.  She recalls Holmes pointing North and say everyone knew what he meant.  He wanted to go to UGA, and Hunter-Gault says she didn't plan to let him go without her.

Chants, shouts and curiosity met the two on campus and Hunter-Gault says at times she had no one to talk to but herself.

"I remember coming back to my room and I had a big mirror at my dressing table and I looked in the mirror and I said "hello" because I realized I hadn't spoken a human sound in three days I hadn't talked to any teachers, I hadn't talked to any students I'd just go to class and come back," she said.

Eventually, Hunter-Gault says she collected a group of friends especially in the school of journalism.

Since receiving her degree in 1962, she's worked for several news organization including CNN, The New Yoker magazine and NPR. She's also gone on to win numerous awards in her field including two Emmys.

"Journalism isn't just any one thing, it's being exposed to so many different things, so you almost get to live vicariously, other people's lives and you question them about what they do, so for me it's just been a dream that has come true and continues to keep coming through," she said.

Hunter-Gault, who currently lives in South Africa, has also written books about her life and experiences, and recently stopped at the USC to speak to students and the community.  

Now as she approaches her 70th birthday, she doesn't plan on slowing down.

"Once a cab driver in New York when I got in the car, he recognized my voice and he said oh I just love your reports from African! And It's so wonderful seeing somebody your age still out there and I wanted to say I'm gonna be out there for a while!" she said.

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