University of Georgia to Honor Its First Black Student to Earn a Degree

Mary Frances Early, who earned a master’s degree from the university in 1962, would go on to have a distinguished career in music education.

Posted: 08/07/2012 05:17 PM EDT
Mary Frances Early

The University of Georgia is planning a ceremony to commemorate 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. 


Early will speak at the Aug. 15 event at the university, the school said.


“This is a significant event in the university’s history,” Pete Konenkamp, a university spokesman, said, speaking with “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.”


Since then, she has had a lengthy and distinguished career in education. She spent many years as an elementary school teacher. Later, she worked as an adjunct professor at Morehouse and Spelman colleges and as a music coordinator and supervisor of Atlanta Public Schools. 


She became the first African-American president of the Georgia Music Educators Association in 1981. As of 2003, Early was the head of the music department at Clark Atlanta University.


Earlier in 1962, Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes had become the first African-American students to enroll at the University of Georgia.


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(Photo: Courtesy of University of Georgia)