January 9th, 1961

Rioting White Students Force Suspension of First Black Students to Integrate University of Georgia

On January 9, 1961, Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes registered at the University of Georgia, becoming the university's first African American students. Their enrollment came days after federal judge William Bootle ordered the university to admit them, ending a two-year administrative and legal effort to integrate the school.

Despite this landmark victory, Hunter and Holmes registered for classes against the backdrop of nearly 100 protesting white students. The protests escalated into full-scale riots involving nearly 2000 white students, local residents, and Ku Klux Klan members. The rioters set fires outside Hunter's dormitory, hurled rocks into the dormitory, 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 using tear gas and fire hoses. Nearly twenty rioters were arrested.

Hunter and Holmes were forced to withdraw from the university and were escorted home by Georgia state troopers. White student leaders gloated; 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 Hunter and Holmes, and they graduated in 1963, becoming the first African American undergraduate students to graduate from the University of Georgia.