September 22, 2017  

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Civil Rights Pioneer, Acclaimed Journalist to Present Armstrong-Branch Lecture

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Charlayne Hunter-Gault

An award-winning journalist who made civil rights history in higher education will be the guest speaker for the spring 2015 Armstrong-Branch Lecture at The University of Southern Mississippi.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault, one of two students to desegregate then all-white University of Georgia in 1961, will present “From Closed Doors to Open Roads: A Journalist’s Journey” Tuesday, Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. in Bennett Auditorium.  

The Armstrong-Branch Lecture series was established in honor of Gwendolyn Armstrong and Raylawni Branch, the University’s first African American students. The two broke the color barrier at Southern Miss when they enrolled in September 1965. Today, USM is in the top 100 institutions of higher learning awarding college degrees to African Americans.

"We’re fortunate to have Charlayne Hunter-Gault as our 2015 Armstrong-Branch Lecture speaker,” said Southern Miss Dean of Students Dr. Eddie Holloway. “She will bring to us a historic story of her integrating the University of Georgia, like Gwendolyn Armstrong and Raylawni Branch did at Southern Miss. We could not have a better speaker as we begin the celebration of our 50th year of desegregation.”

Hunter-Gault has more than four decades of experience working in media, including stints with National Public Radio (NPR), Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the Cable News Network (CNN). She was a national correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and worked as CNN’s chief correspondent in Africa and was awarded a Peabody in 1998 for her coverage of the continent. In 2005, Hunter-Gault returned to NPR as a Special Correspondent.

She began her journalism career as a reporter for The New Yorker; then worked as a local news anchor for WRC-TV in Washington, D.C.; and as the Harlem bureau chief for The New York Times. She is also frequent contributor to The New Yorker and The Root.

Her numerous honors include two Emmy awards and two other Peabody awards — the first for her work on "Apartheid's People," a NewsHour series about South African life during apartheid. Over the years, Hunter-Gault has been the recipient of numerous other awards and citations from the National Association of Black Journalists, including for her CNN series on Zimabawe; the Sidney Hillman Foundation, the American Women in Radio and Television, and Amnesty International for her Human Rights reporting, especially her PBS Series, Rights and Wrongs, a Human Rights Television magazine.

In 2014, she received the International Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum at the historic Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. In 2010, she received the D. C. Choral Arts Society Humanitarian award and in 2011, she was honored with both the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award and the W. Haywood Burns award from New York’s Neighborhood Defender Service. In August 2005, she was inducted in the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame.

Hunter-Gault is the author of four books, including most recently Corrective Rape, a book about violence against gay women in South Africa;To the Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement, a historical narrative for young readers grade nine through young adult. Her other two books are New News Out of Africa: Uncovering the African Renaissance and In My Place, a memoir of the Civil Rights Movement that includes her experiences as the first black woman to attend the University of Georgia.

“What a thrill it is that we will have Charlayne Hunter-Gault on our campus, and what a fitting way to honor the pioneering legacies of Raylawni Branch and Gwendolyn Armstrong,” said Dr. Ellen Weinauer, dean of the Honors College. “A Civil Rights pioneer in her own right, Ms. Hunter-Gault represents the spirit of courage and conviction that inspired Branch and Armstrong so many years ago, and is a model of achievement against the odds. Her visit to Southern Miss provides a wonderful learning opportunity for our students and our community, and we’re delighted to be a part of it.”

The 2015 Armstrong-Branch Lecture is presented by the Dean of Students Office; the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services; the Honors College; and the Office of the President. For more information, contact the Dean of Students Office at 601.266.6028 or the Honors College at 601.266.4533.