Black-Diallo-Miller Residence Hall
On August 4, 2022, my alma mater the University of Georgia held ceremonies naming its newest residence hall, Black-Diallo-Miller Hall honoring the first blacks to enroll as freshmen and graduate from the university. It was an emotional day. In 1962, the university was in its second year of forced desegregation, having been ordered by the courts to admit Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter in January 1961. That September the university did not admit any black undergraduates but admitted Mary Frances Early in a one-year’s master’s program in education. She became its first black graduate. Holmes and Hunter were indeed qualified. Hunter was Phi Beta Kappa in pre-med while Hunter became a well-known PBS correspondent.
Admitting Hunter and Holmes changed my life. My brother Charles was a junior at Purdue. Since he wanted to be an engineer and no black state university offered that major, the state paid his tuition to go to leave the state. Over 600 black students at that time were also gifted tuition. I loved Purdue and was set on joining my brother there. However, because of the court ruling the state legislature stopped the tuition grants. My father broke my heart when he said that he could not afford to pay out-of-state tuition for both of us. “Harold, you are going to have to find another place to go.” I knew I was going to receive scholarships from black schools – I had gotten an early admission scholarship to Morehouse out of the 10th and 11th grades. Dad graduated from Savannah State and Mother was the first four-year graduate of Fort Valley State. But I wanted to go to a school that was integrated. So I got a catalog from Georgia. Tuition was $98 a quarter. Dad said that he could afford it but “They will never accept you.” However, they did along with three women, Mary Blackwell (Diallo), Kerry Rushin (Miller) and Alice Henderson who dropped out her sophomore year.
Dad told me that I wasn’t going to have any friends. He said that they would have to give up their friends to be mine. They would be harassed, called all sorts of names and would be ostracized. He was wrong. There was a dorm meeting that evening and being back of the bus days, when I walked into the auditorium and found a seat close to the front. Everyone on that row got up and left. The three boys directly in front turned around and said, “Can we sit with you?” They did and leaving two of their friends joined us. We went back to my room and talked all night. I had never talked to a white person before going to Athens and they had never talked to a black person on a peer level. They became my closest friends.
My windows were broken so often that a window crew came by every morning to see if I needed a replacement. Obscenities were scratched on my door. Firecrackers were put on the door slats so a solid board was installed. The room was set on fire three times. I carried a gunk extraction kit in case my keyhole was stuffed with chewing gum. I had a large bathroom all to myself. One morning, all the knobs had been removed from the face bowls. Toilet paper was crammed into the toilets. The shower heads were gone and obscenities were scrawled in soap on the mirrors. I walked down to their bathroom which was full of kids getting ready to go to class. I sat on every toilet, washed my hands in every face bowl, tried to urinate in every urinal and ran through every shower. I announced that if they messed with my bathroom again then I would use theirs. That ended that. My bath was never bothered again.
When the university decided to name its newest residence hall after us, I was shocked. What was striking was that I was told that the naming was not just because we were the first but that we all had made the university proud. Mary was a professor of French at Florida A&M University with a Ph.D. from Emory. Kerry was a math major and had a distinguished business career.
The naming ceremony was emotional. Family and friends gathered together. We all gave brief remarks. Mine can be seen at https://news.uga.edu/harold-alonza-black/. We had come full circle. It was almost 60 years to the day that I walked into Reed Hall as a 17-year-old freshman that students would walk into the new Black-Diallo-Miller Hall. We have all come a long way and I, for one, have enjoyed every day of that journey. Go Dawgs!