In 1961, Mary Frances Early (MMED ’62, EDS ’67) made a courageous choice to leave her graduate program at the University of Michigan and enroll at the University of Georgia alongside undergraduate students Charlayne Hunter-Gault (ABJ ’63) and Dr. Hamilton E. Holmes (BS ’63), who were the first African American students to integrate the university. Early knew of Holmes and Hunter-Gault because they were all alumni of Turner High School in Atlanta, and she was so inspired by their bravery that she decided to join them and integrate the graduate school. In August 1962, she became the first African American to graduate from UGA, earning a master’s degree in music education.
Throughout her distinguished teaching and leadership career, Early influenced thousands of students and teachers in Atlanta Public Schools, Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Clark Atlanta University. She is a source of inspiration for countless African American students and alumni at the University of Georgia, having played an integral role in the campaign for racial equality that helped open doors for generations of UGA students.
To honor the courage and fortitude Early displayed, the barriers she broke, and the legacy she leaves as its first African American graduate, the University of Georgia will name the College of Education in her honor, effective February 2020. Funds raised will be used to support scholarships for students who, like Early, have overcome challenges to attend UGA and to support college and campus activities aimed at strengthening diversity and inclusion. We are pleased to honor Early’s lifetime accomplishments as a music educator and civil rights icon by naming the College of Education after Mary Frances Early.