The University of Georgia, Athens will celebrate a milestone in desegregation when it commemorates the 50th anniversary of the graduation of Mary Frances Early, the first Black student to earn a degree from the university.
Early, a 1957 graduate of Clark College in Atlanta, enrolled in a graduate program at the University of Georgia, earning a master's degree in music education in 1962. Prior to that, she was involved in postgraduate work at the University of Michigan when she transferred to UGA to complete her studies in the summer of 1961.
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Earlier that year, Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes became the first African-American students to enroll at UGA.
"This is a significant event in the university's history," Pete Konenkamp, a university spokesman, said. "She was not our first African-American student. But she was our first graduate. We think it's important for us to honor her, not just for what she did here, but what she achieved afterward."
She was a music teacher, a planning and development coordinator, an elementary division curriculum specialist and a music resource teacher at various schools in Atlanta.
In addition, she worked as an adjunct professor at Morehouse and Spelman colleges and as a music coordinator and supervisor for the Atlanta Public Schools. She became the first African-American president of the Georgia Music Educators Association in 1981, reports OnlineAthens.
Early's many awards include the STAR Teacher Award, Coan Middle School, 1972; Benjamin E. Mays Black Music Heritage Award, 1995; UGA Outstanding Alumna Award, 2000; and the UGA Foot Soldier for Equal Justice Award, 2011.
As of 2003, Early was the head of the music department at Clark Atlanta University.
The commemoration ceremony will be held Aug. 15 at 3 p.m. in the university's Fine Arts Building. Highlights will include remarks from Early and several UGA dignitaries, musical performances from UGA students and a keynote address from civil rights pioneer Lonnie C. King Jr.