Mary Frances Early (b. 1936)
On August 16, 1962,
Early was born on June 14, 1936, in Atlanta to Ruth and John H. Early. As a child she spent a great deal of time in a local library across the street from the restaurant owned by her father. An amateur singer, he encouraged his daughter to learn to play the piano so she could accompany him. Early always enjoyed learning and was motivated by her mother, a public school teacher in Monroe. Her love for music and teaching was inspired by a charismatic band teacher at Henry McNeal Turner High School in Atlanta. He influenced her decision to attend Clark College (later Clark Atlanta University) after high school and to major in music education.
According to Early, she was not brought up to talk about racial or gender superiority even though she grew up in segregated Atlanta. She says, "It wasn't in our vocabulary to think that people were good or bad because of their skin color, so I was just sort of taken aback that it became a big issue later in my life."
When Early began the admissions process at UGA, it became obvious to her exactly how big an issue her racial identity was. She had to schedule her own admissions interview, which she later described as "not pleasant." She was bombarded with inappropriate questions, such as whether she had ever been a prostitute or had any illegitimate children. She was told she would lose all of her credit hours from the University of Michigan if she transferred, but Early was determined and persistent. UGA officials investigated her voting records and her family's health records (particularly for evidence of sexually transmitted diseases), and checked to see whether anyone in her family had received any speeding tickets or been arrested.
Thomas G. Dyer, The University of Georgia: A Bicentennial History 1785-1985 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985).
Robert A. Pratt, We Shall Not Be Moved: The Desegregation of the University of Georgia (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2002).
Calvin Trillin, An Education in Georgia: The Integration of Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes (New York: Viking, 1964).
Joy Griffin, Georgia College and State University
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.