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tearing the rag off the bush again
A Question in Georgia PDF E-mail
A derived text sourced from An Education in Georgia: The Integration of Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes, by Calvin Trillin, 1966.

From the front book flap: But what had it been like for the Student Heroes?

Dallas, Houston, and Miami—why not Atlanta? During the Georgia State case, one leader of the Negro community said, “Why’d you take those unwed others over there?” After Charlayne and Hamilton applied at Georgia, he said, “Why’d you take those two fine kids over there?” Almost everybody he sees gets a cheery “How you makin’ it?” or “You makin’ it okay?” And they say, “You mean the Hamilton Holmes up at Georgia?” I went up to the window and asked for four tickets and the man said, “Tickets for what?” Now I’ll ask you if, as an official of the University of Georgia for the period you have stated and as President of the University of Georgia since 1950, do you know of any policy of the University of Georgia to exclude students on account of their race or color? Do you know of any policy to discriminate against Negro applicants? Have you ever had any instructions from the Chancellor of the University System or the Chairman of the Board of Regents or anybody else to exclude Negroes as applicants to the University of Georgia? Have their applications, so far as you know, been considered on the same basis as the applications of white people? At some point in every higher-education case, Mrs. Motley, who has handled practically all such cases for the Inc. Fund, always asks the university registrar what she calls “the old clincher’: Would he favor the admission of a qualified Negro to the University? They kept yelling, “Does she realize she’s causing all this trouble?” Just how naïve do they think we are? Everyone was staring, so I went back and said, “Are you talking to me?” And he said, “Yeah, are you a student here?” 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? I say, “Henry, what are you doing over here?” Charlayne, who was through with classes for the day, had looked up in mock concern and said, “Hamp, would you like for me to walk you to class?” He said, “Why don’t you come back?” It’s school—spirit? And even at the time, nobody went around saying, “Did you see what they did to him?” I know a lot of parents would complain, and why hurt a girl that way? The question is: Is it worth it? Tech has something special to offer, of course, but why should a person want to go down to Athens? Then I asked my husband one day—he belongs to two clubs, exclusive clubs, of businessmen and professionals—’What are you doing, all you rich men?” Isn’t that funny? Well, I asked Scott, “What are you going to do?” Well, I said, “That’s a fine idea, but meanwhile what’s this boy supposed to do for three years, go and hide?” Finally he called and said, “When can you have your boy over here to register?” I told professor Edwards I wasn’t taking up for segregation or anything, he said, but, just forgetting for a minute the sociologists and the Supreme Court and politics and all that, didn’t he think his people were better off right now—maybe not later but right now—I their own schools? Remember last year when I came out to your school to induct ten of your seniors in the National Honor Society? Now, just how many of those seniors do you think would have made the National Honor Society at Athens High—with that competition? Could any student fail to be charmed sooner or later by the engaging girl who had been named Miss Turner? Could people fail to respect Hamilton’s abilities as an athlete and a student? But I told Wilma at the time, “Isn’t it funny that things like this never really mattered to us until now?” At the start of the quarter do you hear, “How many this quarter?” They were relieved when it didn’t happen that way, but now they say, “Why couldn’t we have had a kneel-in and had it over with?” Who else will come? Will there be a Negro member? Plenty of times, people ask me, “Is Hamilton Holmes still at Georgia?” He said, “The vent,” and I said, “What vent?” My preacher in Atlanta, Sam Williams, was president of the N.A.A.C.P. branch last year, and one Sunday this fall he said, “Well, haven’t you gone to college yet, Harold?” He said, “Where are you going?” What was it she was being honored for? What connection did the honors have with the number of friends she had or the number of young men who thought she was pretty? What did the “fight for full emancipation” have to do with driving around Athens because there was no place to stop, or waiting in the Red and Black office while everybody else was asked to do something? If everybody was so interested in “the cause of freedom,” why didn’t anybody do anything about encouraging more Negro high-school seniors to go to Georgia? And why did she have to scratch around before every quarter to get enough money to go back to school? You mean “I, James H. Meredith?” You know what Perry is like? Who in this row has five dollars for freedom? Did you see Hamp on TV a few months ago? Did you hear that first spiritual, “I’ve been ‘Buked and I’ve Been Scorned”? I used to walk by those frat houses, and the boys would be out there playing ball, and I’d think, What is there for me to do except go home and sit? Pointing out the sacrifices that Charlayne had made previously, the Atlanta Inquirer, her old paper, asked, “Did Charlayne, because of the role she accepted from history, have a special obligation or responsibility to make additional personal sacrifices?”
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