EVEN before Charlayne had to return to Athens, a few days after the riot, another girl had decided to join her there as the university’s first Negro graduate student. Mary Frances Early, a music teacher in the Atlanta public schools and a 1957 graduate of Clark, one of the colleges in the Atlanta University Center, had been studying for her Master’s degree at the University of Michigan for three summers when she decided to transfer to the University of Georgia. She finished her work there in two summer sessions and a spring quarter, and became the first Negro to receive a degree from the university—almost a year before Charlayne and Hamilton graduated. Miss Early used Charlayne’s room in Center Myers the first summer, and roomed there with Charlayne during the spring quarter and summer session of the following year. Before I left Atlanta for my return visit to Athens, I stopped by Miss Early’s house to ask her about her own experiences at Georgia and how she thought Charlayne had managed. A direct young lady, and formerly the music columnist for the militant Atlanta Inquirer, Miss Early admitted frankly that she had enrolled at Georgia for the Cause.
“I sent for an application two days after the riot,” she told me. “I thought that since the undergraduate school was open, somebody should go to the graduate school, and when I saw a picture of Charlayne that night, holding that Madonna, I knew I had to go. I had a little trouble about transferring. Mr. Danner told me that the University of Georgia was under no obligation to accept credits from Michigan and that it would be silly for me to lose all that time. I told him the time would not be lost anyway and that I wanted to go to Georgia. I think after Charlayne and Hamilton went in we thought in Atlanta that once it was open everything would be okay. But that was far from the case. When I saw that room, I was shocked. It was completely isolated from everybody else.”
Most of the ground floor of Center Myers is taken up by a vast, ugly lobby, but there are identical apartments at opposite ends of the floor. One of them is occupied by the housemother; the other was apparently intended for a counselor. It has a bedroom, a living room, a kitchenette, and a private bathroom, and it seemed to the university officials a good place to put Charlayne when, in spite of their offer to waive a rule requiring all girls under twenty-three to live on campus, she decided to live in a dormitory. The Women’s Student Government Association leaders who had been living in the apartment were asked to move out, and they made no complaints about leaving its lonely splendor to return to their sorority houses. When Charlayne returned after the riot, she found that the university, sensitive about the way editorialists and legislators had been tossing around the word “suite,” had shut off the bedroom. It was reopened the following spring, when Miss Early joined Charlayne in the suite, and it was kept open when two Negro freshmen moved in with her in the fall of her senior year.
“That first summer, I didn’t realize how lonely it was until one time when I wanted somebody to zip up my dress in the back, and there was nobody in a nearby room I could ask,” Miss Early told me. “When I went back for the spring quarter, both Charlayne and I wanted single rooms that were private but not isolated. There are only freshmen in Center Myers during the regular term, and I requested a room in a dorm where there would be somebody near my own age. But they said there were no other rooms available. Of course, the first week of that quarter, Charlayne and I had lunch with a graduate student, an older woman, who said she was changing dorms because of the vacancies in a new dorm that had opened. I kept wondering, Just how naïve do they think we are? Their excuses are so thin a child could see through them. I know Charlayne was upset that she couldn’t get a room in another dorm, especially this year. A senior housed with freshmen, that’s not right.”
Even if she and Charlayne had had a lot in common with the younger girls, Miss Early went on, the atmosphere in the dormitory would have been cool. “If you went to the lobby to watch TV, there was usually no discourse, although occasionally a word or two was said,” she told me. “It just wasn’t the kind of atmosphere it should have been after almost two years. We never went into anybody else’s room, since we were never invited. I didn’t know until last summer how the upstairs looked. We had nine Negroes in the summer school then, so they had to put some in connecting suites upstairs. During the spring quarter, there were three girls who used to come down to the room. We had dinner with them one evening, and they explained that they wanted to be more friendly but that they were rushing sororities and had been told by some of their big sisters that they were treading on dangerous ground. After that, they came much less often, though they did continue to come.”
Before arriving at Georgia for her first summer, Miss Early said, she received a letter from James Popovich, a speech professor who had also tried to be helpful to Charlayne and Hamilton. Except for occasional meetings with Popovich and one or two other faculty members, Miss Early was alone. “It was very lonely that first summer,” she told me. “Since Hamp and Charlayne were gone, I was the only one there, and I was almost ostracized. I normally ate at the Student Center cafeteria, and that first summer I ate lunch with others only twice. Often, when I entered, the students would start these wailing noises—something like a cat. But nobody ever said anything. Oh, once a student turned back to me in the line and asked if I was a student. Of course I answered in the affirmative. I’m not what they call a trouble-maker, and I never sat down at a table with other persons except if it was crowded and I had to, and then, most of the time, they would get up. Once, one boy stayed, but he finished very quickly. It’s not that they were all prejudiced; they thought they’d suffer socially. There was only one incident. One day, somebody threw a lemon and hit me in the back. I was very angry that anybody would be so immature, and I didn’t go back for several days. But Doctor Popovich said that was just what they wanted, so then I went back. Corky King, the Presbyterian minister, and his wife and one of their children ate with me the first day.
“I went to the Co-op, the snack bar, just once—one day when the whole vocal class went for coffee. Everybody just plunked down a dime at the register, and I did the same thing, but as I walked away the boy at the register yelled, ‘Hey, you, come here!’ He was a very coarse-talking boy. I didn’t turn around and he yelled again. Everybody was staring, so I went back and said, ‘Are you talking to me?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, are you a student here?’ I told him I was, and he said, ‘Show me your I.D. card.’ I did, and went on. But it put a damper on everything. I never went back there. When you ask where we could go—well, some of the places perhaps we could go but you don’t know how you’ll be received, so you don’t go for fear of being embarrassed. Everybody wants to be comfortable. But sometimes, when it’s necessary, you have to go anyway.”
By joining the university chorus her first summer, Miss Early became the first Negro to participate in any extracurricular activity at Georgia. That summer, she said, she was “tolerated, but that’s all” by the other members. In fact, she became the only girl in the chorus who had to have her own individual sheet music, because the girl she was supposed to look on with felt that handling the same music was more contact than she cared to have. “By the second summer,” Miss Early said, “there were three of us in the chorus, and that made things easier. They seemed to get used to us and forget our color, and after a while it was fine. More students just have to be seen in more places. After a while, it becomes natural.”
As a member of the chorus, Miss Early ran into a problem that Charlayne had found particularly irritating the first year she was at Georgia. Two or three months after she and Hamilton entered the university, Donald Hollowell and the lawyers from the state asked Judge Bootle to rule on just how thoroughly integrated Georgia was, according to his original order. To no one’s surprise, Bootle ruled that Charlayne and Hamilton and the Negro students who followed them were entitled to attend all university events without being segregated and to use all the facilities of the university. Soon after the ruling was handed down, I saw Charlayne in Atlanta, and she seemed angrier at the university administration than she had ever been before. She had planned to return to Athens that Saturday night for a play, taking along a date from Atlanta. The adviser in the dean’s office assigned to her, after learning that the date was a Negro, checked with her superiors and informed Charlayne that the university was completely integrated as far as she and Hamilton were concerned but that the order did not include other Negroes. By the following summer, when Miss Early wanted to bring her mother and some friends to a concert of the chorus, the university had found a less direct and more characteristic way of handling the problem. She was told to check with Dean Williams before bringing other Negroes on the campus, but she was unable to get an appointment with him until after the concert was over. When she finally did see him, he said it wouldn’t have been a very good idea anyway, because the university was not ready for such a step.
When I remarked on Charlayne’s anger at the incident of the play, Miss Early said, “I think Charlayne often feels that it’s a sign of weakness to complain, and tries to pretend everything is okay. But she knows it isn’t, and sometimes it comes out. I think the whole thing has affected her more than she cares to admit. She’s been sick a lot, and it’s no wonder. I knew her before, and she used to be so carefree and gay. Now she’s only carefree and gay on the outside.”
Although Charlayne did not seem quite carefree and gay the first time I saw her in Athens that week, she did seem remarkably like a normal coed. She was even wearing a University of Georgia pin on her sweater when I found her in the Journalism Building, chatting with Joan Zitzelman, a graduate student of journalism who was probably her closest friend at Georgia, and two or three other journalism students. Charlayne suggested that I have lunch with her at the Continuing Education Center, and we drove up the long hill from Main Campus to a huge, modern red-brick building across the street from Center Myers. The Continuing Education Center—or C.E., as it is usually called—serves as a hotel and convention center not only for university conferences but for dozens of nonacademic meetings as well. It has a restaurant, and that is where Charlayne usually ate during her last two years at Georgia, since she believed that the food in the student dining hall she had used during her first spring there had disagreed with her and may have contributed to the attacks of stomach trouble she suffered, off and on, during her stay. The C.E. restaurant caters mostly to faculty members and conference delegates, and the latter were frequently amazed to find Charlayne, in person, right in the same restaurant. “We get a lot of people like the county clerks meeting there,” a liberal professor later told me cheerfully. “They’re all dyed-in-the-wool conservative Baptists. They’ve come to accept the fact that Charlayne and Hamilton are in school here, but seeing her eat there with a couple of white boys really shocks them.” Charlayne was also a good customer of the C.E. coffee shop, and as we passed it, on the way to the restaurant, she called out a friendly hello to one of the waitresses and to the woman who operated the magazine stand.
I told Charlayne that the atmosphere at the Journalism Building had seemed surprisingly easy. “Oh, I feel pretty comfortable in the Journalism School now,” she replied. “I’m never left alone in the corner without anybody to talk to, and now I don’t feel any reluctance about walking up to a group of people. I know most of the students and professors.”
Charlayne’s general good will toward the Journalism School did not extend to the student newspaper, the Red and Black, or to its editor, Larry Jones, who had written a column that day on Hamilton Holmes. The column was based on a news report of Hamilton’s speech before the Savannah Council on Human Relations. Hamilton had said that he had made no friends at the university, and although the observation had been made in answer to a question, the news story made it appear to be the main line of a speech devoted principally to complaint. Jones had objected strenuously. “Holmes entered the University forcibly, as an alien,” Jones wrote. “He attended as an alien. And when he graduates this June (with honors, I understand) he will still be an alien. The treatment he has received; the friendless atmosphere he has encountered: he could have expected no more and he has received no less. . . . On this ‘friendless’ campus with its ‘less than cordial’ atmosphere, Mr. Holmes has gone his own way. He has devoted much time to scholastic endeavors and little to anything else. (By this I mean extracurricular activities.) He had no choice. He made his choice when he entered Georgia two years ago. So perhaps my resentment of his complaints is wrong. After all, there’s not much for him to do but study and make speeches.”
Charlayne said that Hamilton was badly upset by the column. “It’s hard to reassure him,” she said. “He doesn’t have much contact with the students. It wouldn’t have bothered me as much, knowing what halfwits some of those people are. Can you imagine! All Hamp is an honor student. Isn’t that terrible! And the article wasn’t even checked to find out if it was accurate. They’re supposed to be journalists! I was thinking all during history class of what I’d write Jones. I couldn’t even take any notes. But I decided I wouldn’t get down to that level, and on any other level they wouldn’t understand it.”
Strolling around the Georgia campus, as I did that same afternoon, I found it easy to understand how Hamilton might have reached his most dejected point exactly a year before. In the spring, the University of Georgia is no place for an alien. Georgia looks very much like the campus of that college that Hollywood movies used to call “State.” One professor told me that on the day he arrived there from the Midwest he had expected to see “Jeanne Crain racing across the quad, her hair blowing in the wind.” Almost every building is some combination or other of red brick and white columns, from the solid-looking pillared brick library to the ornate white-columned ante-bellum fraternity and sorority houses on Milledge Avenue, some of them carefully marked not only with Greek letters but also with numbers assigned them by the Athens Historical Society when it devised its tour of the city. It was a warm day, with the dogwood out and the big oaks on the quadrangle of Main Campus starting to turn green. At the Chi Phi house, a block from the Journalism Building, the brothers, most of them in Bermuda shorts and T-shirts, were making good use of their vast front lawn, practicing for the softball season, flying kites, and frolicking with their new mascot, a goat. Next door, at Kappa Alpha, the most noisily Southern of all the fraternities, more softball was being played, under a huge Confederate flag that had been lowered to half mast during the first three days Charlayne and Hamilton were on the campus, had been raised again when they were suspended, and then, after a word from the Dean’s office, had stayed where it was upon their return. I had seen the Kappa Alphas raise the flag in a wild midnight celebration of the mob’s victory in driving Charlayne from the campus—a scene that seemed far removed from springtime softball.
Main Campus, the original site of the university, is a huge double quadrangle that starts at the edge of downtown Athens and extends southward for half a mile. It is entered through an arch that is often pictured in the university’s literature. On the lawn nearby is a large sign saying, “The University of Georgia. Founded in 1785.” The sign is accurate only in a broad and rather unscholarly way. The university was chartered in 1785, but it did not have such basic equipment as students or a campus until sixteen years later. The University of North Carolina, for one, was a going operation by that time, and, in fact, had been provided for in the state constitution before 1785. Only Georgia, however, had a specific charter for a university at that date, and it often refers to itself, with a careful use of the superlative, as “The Oldest Chartered State University in the Country.” The University of Georgia did not award its first doctorate until the time of the Second World War—the University library’s list of Master’s theses and doctoral dissertations written between 1868 and 1950 includes only six for doctorates, five of them in education—so, like many a Southern university that was not the oldest chartered state university in the country, it relied for years on graduates of Virginia and North Carolina to make up its faculty. Still, in many ways, Georgia can claim a long tradition. The all-important charter was drawn up by Abraham Baldwin, a Yale man from Connecticut, who modeled it on Yale’s. Baldwin became a United States Senator from Georgia and also served as first president of the university for sixteen years—a term that was not disturbed by the presence of students or the acquisition of buildings but did resolve the haggling over a site for the university. In 1801, when Josiah Meigs, another Yale man, took over, Athens had been chosen, and Meigs started to build Old College, whose design was almost identical with that of Connecticut Hall, one of Yale’s earliest buildings. Old College is still standing. Planted in the middle of the lawn, it forms the common line for the two quadrangles of Main Campus. Except for the absence of window shutters and the presence of two or three lovely dogwood trees nearby, it might be taken for Connecticut Hall. Since Old College went up, Georgia’s relations with Mother Yale have been fitful. An attempt in the middle of the nineteenth century to bring the New England elm to Main Campus was an almost total failure. An annual Georgia-Yale football game, started in the twenties, lasted for a dozen years, and the dedication of the Georgia football stadium was marked by a Yale game in Athens, but Georgia football historians say it is mere coincidence that Yale and Georgia have the only two major college football teams called the Bulldogs. Many of the buildings on Main Campus do have a blocky, New England look, and a dozen of them are more than a century old. The Demosthenian Literary Society, which occupies one of the oldest buildings in the quadrangle, was founded in 1803—a long time ago, even by Yale standards—and Demosthenian’s rival, Phi Kappa, which faces it across the quad, was founded only a few years later.
One traditional campus decoration that I had missed at Georgia during my first visit there was the assemblage of posters covering bulletin boards and store windows usually found around most college campuses. Advertisements for lectures, concerts, or plays were nowhere in sight. On my first day back, I walked over to see what the main bulletin board, next to the university chapel, had to offer, and found it almost empty. There were some advertisements for textbooks, car parts, a parachute, and various appliances; some rental offers for cabins on a lake near the campus; some requests for rides to Brunswick or Savannah; and a permanent announcement that “Demosthenian Literary Society invites all Male Students to their Wednesday night meeting,” an indication that Demosthenian was not literary in a finicky way. The biggest signs on the board were for a Spring Fever Dance (sponsored by the Student Center) and a Kappa Alpha Theta Kite Flying Contest.
“Actually, a large number of things go on,” Frank Gibson, a political-science professor, told me later, “but you’d never know it from walking around the campus. We have a good concert series; the philosophy department has brought in some outstanding speakers. Perhaps because all these events are attended almost exclusively by faculty members, they don’t bother to advertise. The faculty already knows about them.”
Gibson said the university has lately made good progress in improving its faculty and facilities (according to the latest Report of the President, Georgia managed to increase the percentage of Ph.D.s on its faculty from 27.7 in 1952 to 47.1 in 1962, even though, the Report noted, “faculty salaries are still too low to permit competition with above average institutions”) but that “the student interest is still in non-academic things. Demosthenian and Phi Kappa hold debates on Wednesdays, and all you have to do to become a member is attend a couple of debates. But they don’t draw much of a crowd and they have no real influence. As the campus is organized now, most of the grouping is strictly social in nature.”
This grouping, Gibson told me, had a good deal to do with how Charlayne and Hamilton were treated. “Being friendly to them is still not totally acceptable among social fraternities, and the whole social life of the university rests in fraternities and sororities,” he said. “The university is simply not equipped to handle the independent student. The Student Center is very poor—a run-down old building with a pool room and a ballroom—and the town offers limited facilities. I have a girl in one of my classes who’s a transfer student and is not in a sorority. She’s a psychology major, and most of her friends are in the Psychology Department, just as many of Charlayne’s friends are in the Journalism School. I think there has been some progress toward acceptance of the Negroes on campus. It’s partly a matter of personality. Hamilton—in outward appearance, at least—is semi-surly. His look more or less says, ‘Don’t approach me.’ I notice that the Negro freshman boy who came this year is always with a group, while Hamilton is always alone. I see the Negro freshman girls coming and going on their way to classes, and they are almost always alone. On the other hand, I’ve never seen Charlayne alone. I think in some ways there’s less of a barrier now between her and the rest of the students than there was at the beginning.”
As I walked around the campus with Charlayne that week, there often appeared to be no barrier at all, and her life at Georgia seemed unrelated to the stories I had heard from Mary Frances Early. Sometimes she gave the impression of being just another college girl—studying in the library with other students, or asking a boy if she could borrow his notes for a history class she had missed, or chatting with a professor about the parking problem (quite a problem in a university with nine thousand students who maintain forty-two hundred cars), or answering another girl’s questions about a surprise quiz in philosophy, or standing with the other members of her honors seminar in the art, music, and drama of the twentieth century and nodding in sympathy as one of the girls said, “Y’all, that last play, The Seagull—I just could not fathom that.” But often I would look around to see students staring, and three times during the week a group of boys passing in a car shouted insults. Charlayne took no notice of either the stares or the shouts.
One morning, when Charlayne had a free hour between social-and-intellectual history and introduction to philosophy, an hour she had promised herself to devote to reading The Seagull and other unfathomables, we went for coffee to the Co-op, the snack bar near the Journalism School. On the walk over from the history building, two or three students and an instructor called out greetings, and one boy stopped Charlayne to say hello and ask how her classes were going. The Co-op, a cramped, low-ceilinged room done in knotty pine, looked like the product of the same set designer who had done Main Campus, the arch, the Varsity (a hamburger hangout across the street from the arch), and most of the other buildings at Georgia.
I had asked Charlayne if many unpleasant remarks were made to her as she walked around the campus, and as we entered the Co-op she said, “Well, if you’re going to hear any remarks, you’ll probably hear them here. Whenever there’s a big crowd, you can expect to hear something as I walk past the tables along the front wall.” As it happened, we got nothing but stares as we walked in and took a knotty-pine booth near the serving line. When I asked Charlayne why she came to the Co-op if it seemed likely that somebody would say something insulting, she said, “Well, it doesn’t happen every day. And it’s not that bad. It’s not the whole group, and I don’t sit with those boys. And sometimes I get hungry in the morning. Anyway, I usually come in earlier—sometimes with Joan or somebody from the Journalism School, and sometimes alone. When I’m alone, sometimes people sit down with me and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they talk and sometimes they don’t. I usually don’t want to talk to anybody in the morning anyway. It’s hard to say how often I hear somebody make a remark. I guess I could calculate a way to avoid it for, say, a week. But I would have to stay away from certain areas—here, in front of the Kappa Alpha house, that tree that the law students gather around in front of the Journalism Building. But it’s not so bad now. The K.A.s usually don’t yell nasty things now; they just yell my name. I might even go a couple of weeks sometimes. Last summer, I went for a long time without anybody saying anything. At the Continuing Education Center, people stare a lot, but they never say anything. Oh, one time a man kept saying, ‘There’s that little nigger who caused all the trouble.’ He kept saying it quite loud and some women with him were trying to stop him. I usually don’t pay any attention, but that time I got mad. I just stared back at him all through dinner. Or for a while. Then I just said, ‘What the heck.’
“We’d always feel little tremors here during things like the Freedom Ride and Ole Miss. Then the catcalls would start again, but not bad. The first half year, they used to let the air out of my tires a lot, but after that nothing really out of the ordinary happened.” Pointing out a boy standing near the cash register, Charlayne said, “There’s the guy who asked Mary Frances for her I.D. card. He made me show mine once, too. Maybe he asked Mary Frances because he really didn’t know she was a student.” She paused, then added, “No, I guess he’s kind of mean.”
A few minutes later, another journalism student and an instructor from the Journalism School joined us, and then a husky student with a heavy Georgia accent leaned over the booth and said, “hey, Charlayne, you have any extra pillows?”
“Why?” Charlayne asked.
“We’re going to tar and feather Doctor Kopp,” the boy said, referring to a journalism professor. “I thought that chocolate-covered ground glass I gave him for Christmas would end that kind of Public Opinion exam.”
Soon after that, another student approached the table, looked over the top of the booth quickly, then, smirking and without having said a word, went back to a table near the front wall where he had been sitting with a group of boys.
“That’s one of the guys on the paper,” Charlayne said. “He’s the one who was running for some office and sent around a form letter for support, and the salutation on mine said ‘Dear Nig.’ He probably wants to see who’s with me.” She smiled. “He likes to keep up with my progress and activities.”
Charlayne’s own tenure on the Red and Black was short and unpleasant. She had had an unusual amount of experience for a journalism student, having written for the Inquirer throughout her stay at Georgia and worked for the Louisville Times in the summer of 1961, but her Journalism School faculty adviser suggested that she work at least one quarter on the student newspaper, a biweekly of high-school quality, put out mainly by journalism students. In the fall quarter of her senior year she worked in the advertising section, making up dummies for ads and devising an advertising filing system. “I didn’t want to barge into the editorial end,” she told me. “I would have had to go out and talk to a lot of people I didn’t want to talk to. I worked mainly with Tommy Johnson, the business manager, who’s a pretty nice guy. We usually worked Tuesday nights, making up the ad dummy for the editorial people to fill the next night. But one Wednesday night, when we went to the weekly criticism, the editor asked everybody to stay, because they were short of people. Tommy had left for some reason. I stayed, but I just sat there. They went around asking everybody if he could print. Nobody could, so I finally said I could print, just because I wanted something to do. I got through with the printing, and the editor kept asking people to do things, but he would never ask me. So finally I just left. I never went back.”