University of Georgia Celebrates Desegregation

VIDEO: 50 years ago a judge forced University of Georgia to admit first black
WATCH Celebrating Desegregation: a Student Returns

On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, while the country remembers the man who gave a powerful voice to the Civil Rights movement, one university in the South looks back on its own segregated past.

This month, the University of Georgia marks the 50th anniversary of its desegregation. and while much has changed since Jan. 9, 1961, black enrollment at the university still lags behind that of other four-year colleges in the state, according to enrollment statistics.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes arrived on the University of Georgia campus during the heart of the Civil Rights movement, realizing King's dream that black and white children would learn peacefully together. However, the first steps toward a desegregated university weren't easy.

Hunter-Gault, the first black woman to attend the university, says she still remembers the smallest details, including the smell of tear gas and the cold air -- as well as the brick that came crashing through her window when a federal judge forced the university to allow her to attend.

Watch "World News with Diane Sawyer" for more on this story tonight on ABC.

"I'll never forget that, I mean, '2-4-6-8, we don't want to integrate,'" she said, recalling the chanting from the crowd.

One student even threw a quarter at Hunter-Gault and told her to change her bed sheets.

"They didn't have a clue who I was or what my dreams were, and the fact that my dreams were the same dreams they had," she said.

On Campus Today

Today Hunter-Gault is an accomplished journalist, and while the University of Georgia is a very different place from the one she entered in 1961, there are still few black students on campus. Only 8 percent of the student body is currently made up of black students.

"I didn't want to come to UGA until I visited campus," said Josh Delaney, the current Student Government president, who is black. "I didn't think that UGA was the place for me."

Many students around campus acknowledge that the campus lacks diversity.

"When you look at it, the University of Georgia is still a predominantly white school," said Kristina Stepanek, a white student from Woodstock, Ga.

"Different races hang out with themselves and you hang out with who you are most comfortable with," said Lauren Rice, who is black.

"I am very often the only African American in class," said Delaney. "I think a lot of black students here would give you the same story."

Fifty years after she first walked past the angry crowds that protested her enrollment, Hunter-Gault says she is still frustrated with the school's lack of growth in recruiting black students.

Desegregation Still Slow at University of Georgia After 50 Years

"If I have any regrets it's that the black students didn't come fast enough and in significant enough numbers," Hunter-Gault said.

Although Georgia does not have a very diverse campus, Hunter-Gault is still returning to a school with a very different student population. Many students say they find the history of segregation "foreign," something they can't begin to understand.

"When I meet someone new it's not that I'm looking at what race they are or what color their skin is," said Merry Ma, an Asian student. "It's more, I mean, 'You guys know, hey, okay, do you guys play Frisbee?' 'Cause I like Frisbee a lot."

Delaney says that while the lingering perception is that the University of Georgia is not an exceptionally diverse place, time will change that.

"If you look at, it's only been 50 years. Fifty years is not a long time," he said. "You know, my grandmother could not have come to the university."

Hunter-Gault says she just hopes that the campus will become more diverse in the coming years.

"You want to see more diversity in the colleges in the boardrooms, in the corporations, wherever, because it's good for America."

Click here to return to the "World News" page.