Mary Frances Early was the first black student to graduate from the University of Georgia. She graduated with a Masters in Music Education in 1962. After the Valedictorian earned a Bachelors degree from Clark Atlanta College, she decided to be a part of the integration movement in the south. After applying to the University of Georgia, Early was given an FBI-style security check of her background. She was admitted in 1961 and made history one year later.
Since her graduation, Early continued to spread her knowledge of music to surrounding premier HBCUs, Morehouse and Spelman Colleges. She also served as music coordinator and supervisor of Atlanta Public Schools. By 1981, Mary Early became the first African-American president of the Georgia Music Educators Association. She later returned to her alma mater, now Clark Atlanta University, in 2003, to serve as the head of the music department.
Early has been awarded the Benjamin E. Mays Black Music Heritage Award, the University of Georgia Outstanding Alumna Award and the Foot Soldier for Equal Justice Award at the University of Georgia. Next week the University of Georgia will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Early’s graduation in a special ceremony.