Charlayne Hunter-Gault at Lewis & Clark
February 10, 2014
On January 29, 2014, journalist, renowned national correspondent, news anchor, and activist Charlayne Hunter-Gault joined the Lewis & Clark College community as the 2014 Chamberlin Lecturer to discuss her personal and professional journey as a social justice advocate over the last five decades.
Charlayne Hunter-Gault, author of To the Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement, challenged segregation laws in 1961 and became one of the first two black students - and the first black woman - to enroll at the University of Georgia. Hunter-Gault began her journalism career as the first black woman writer for The New Yorker magazine in the mid-1960s. From there, she went on to serve as the Harlem bureau chief for The New York Times, national correspondent for The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, and a correspondent for CNN.
In the opening of her speech, Ms. Hunter- Gault spoke about her experiences as an eyewitness and participant of our nation’s historical civil rights events as well as South Africa’s. She stated,
“I’ve been fortunate, if not blessed, to have witnessed two revolutions in my life, as a participant in one and an observer in one; the American Civil Rights Revolution was the one in which I was a minor participant and then the end of apartheid in South Africa was the other…each of the two I was most closely involved with has fueled my path both professionally, and personally, and each has enabled me to affirm and appreciate, and yes even promote to the extent that I can, the audacity of justice, civil rights as human rights…”
Starting her journey as an advocate and agent of change at the University of Georgia, nineteen-year-old Charlayne Hunter-Gault walked on into the darkness with her suit of armor built out of strength, courage, and will. Instead of viewing the fight for social justice as a long and hard struggle, Hunter-Gault considers them as opportunities that have shaped her into the person she’s grown to be. Furthermore, Charlayne spoke of our nation’s continuous struggle in reaching a world where justice and equality, as well as diversity and inclusiveness, exist.
“We ain’t there yet, otherwise how is it that we have radically different perceptions as well as realities of racial progress?”
Charlayne Hunter-Gault exposed and compared the struggle for civil rights to the struggles of economic inequality that South Africans currently face. Furthermore, Hunter-Gault spoke of how our media portrays South Africa only in one light and it is our duty to demand for a fuller, complete, and authentic coverage. She states,
“…Given the goals, given the principles, given your mission and mandate here that your students as well as your teachers and your Dean and everyone in this wonderful environment will be a part of a new global vanguard who see the world’s people as Martin Luther King Jr. saw them: as their neighbors whom we need to get to know better. And that this global vanguard insists on getting news out of the world in general and Africa in particular so that Africa can be treated for whom she is: the mother of us all.”
Through her personal recollections of the struggle against racism and a strive for a better union, Charlayne Hunter-Gault reminded us that the journey to a more equal nation, as well as others, is a never-ending one; it is our duty to continue fighting the fight her generation carried on.
- Written by Evelyn Guerrero, CAS ‘16