Civil Rights Pioneer and Award-Winning Journalist to Speak at New College of Florida

Charlayne Hunter-Gault, a pioneer in the American civil rights movement and an award-winning journalist for The New York Times, NPR and CNN, will speak on Nov. 9 with New College students about her life and career.

Her talk is at 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9, in the College’s Sudakoff Conference Center. An informal  reception will follow.

In 1961, Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes were the first two black students to enroll at University of Georgia. Both outstanding high school students, Atlanta civic leaders recruited them to challenge segregation at the state’s colleges.

Protestors taunted them and on their third night a mob smashed windows in Hunter’s dormitory. The school suspended them, saying it was for their safety. More than 300 faculty members signed a resolution supporting their return, and another court order mandated their reinstatement.

She learned her first lessons about journalism from reading the reporting by Calvin Trillin and others about her story. “I was able to be an observer, as well as a participant — and fortunately, [I was] of an age where I could learn and benefit, looking at the good and the bad,” she told NPR in 2011.

Her journalism career began after her graduation in 1963, with a job as an editorial assistant at The New Yorker. She became a staff writer for the magazine, then, after an academic fellowship, became a reporter and anchor for a Washington D.C. television station.

In 1968, she went on to The New York Times, where she was a reporter for 10 years, then joined the MacNeil/Lehrer report on PBS. She left PBS in 1997 to join her husband, banker Ronald Gault, at his job in South Africa, and became NPR’s chief Africa correspondent. She was CNN’s South Africa bureau chief 1999 to 2005.

In her journalism career she received many awards, including two Emmys and two Peabody awards.

She has maintained close ties with University of Georgia. In 1988, she gave the commencement address, the first by an African-American in school history. In 2001, the college renamed the building where she registered for classes as the Holmes-Hunter Academic Building. In 2011, she donated her papers to the college’s Russell Library for Political Research and Studies.

She has written two books, the memoir In My Place and To the Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement. The latter book was New College’s summer reading assignment for incoming freshmen.

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