President J. B. Gambrell says he is "delighted to tell about several Negro preachers who attended the theological classes while he was president and who were heartily welcomed by the white students." (Baptist Standard, June 23, 1921)
U.S. District Judge William Augustus Bootle, a Mercer graduate, trustee and former dean of the Mercer Law School, ordered the University of Georgia to admit Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter, thereby ending 160 years of segregation at the institution.
President Rufus Harris announces to the Board of Trustees that the School of Law received an application for admission from an African-American. Since the applicant is 54-years-old, Harris tells the Board of Trustees that he would likely be denied by the Law School Admissions Committee since the average age of the law student body is 23.
President Rufus Harris announces that Mercer has received "one or two" applications from African-Americans, but none of the applicants were qualified for admission. "We would have not accepted the students if they had been white," he told The Macon Telegraph. President Harris states that when a "Negro student does qualify for admission, his application will be referred to the board of trustees," and added that he favored the admission of African-Americans to the University.
The Mercer Law Alumni Association passes a resolution that reads, in part, "Be it resolved, we do register our objection to the integration of the educational facilities of Mercer University, if being the feeling that to so act would be contrary to the best interest of the University and student body."
Under the leadership of Mercer President Rufus Harris, admission to qualified students without regard to race, color of skin, creed or origin was declared official by the University's Board of Trustees. Sam Jerry Oni of Ghana became the first black admitted to the University.
Martin Luther King Jr. gives his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, which he delivered to more than 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The address was given during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Shortly after he arrives on campus, Sam Oni and his roommate, Donald Baxter, are visited by the pastor of Tattnall Square Baptist Church, who states that he "he didn't think his congregation was quite ready to accept [Oni]."
Vineville Baptist Church votes by a margin of two to one to allow Sam Oni to join its congregation, which, according to the The Christian Index, makes Oni "the first of his race to join a church affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention since slavery days."
Joe Hendricks and William Randall recruit 17 black high school students to be tutored on Mercer's campus in remedial reading, English, and math in order to prepare them to integrate into the white high schools and also increase their college entrance exam test scores.
Mercer is an early participant in the federal Upward Bound program, which emerges from the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and the Higher Education Act of 1965. The program is designed to prepare lower-income high school students (both black and white) for college entrance.
Andrew Young and Sam Oni visit in the spring of 1968 during a Poor People's Campaign stop in Marks, Miss. The campaign was organized by Martin Luther King Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and was carried out in the wake of Dr. King's assassination.
H.W. Ted Matthews graduates from Mercer's Southern School of Pharmacy and goes on to become the first black faculty member at the pharmacy school and the first black dean at the University. Today, in addition to serving as dean of the College of Pharmacy, Dr. Matthews serves as Senior Vice President for Health Sciences and oversees the Mercer Health Sciences Center.
Fifty-five black students start the Black Students Alliance at Mercer. The Alliance was open to any fulltime Mercer student who pledged support to the principles of the organization. As stated in the Alliance's constitution, the purpose of the organization was to "maintain the black identity on Mercer's campus by creating a self-conscious black community promoting knowledge of black culture and heritage, and serving as a forum for the expression of black ideas and goals."
Mercer faculty approve an interdisciplinary program in Black Studies. The 1971-72 Bulletin includes courses such as "The American Black Experience," "Civil Rights and the Black American," "Manifestations of Prejudice," and "Christian Social Ethics."
Sam Oni stands before a packed Willingham Auditorium audience at the University's commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of integration. He received three standing ovations and was so impressed with what he deemed "the new Georgia" that he moved back to the state that same year.
Dr. Andrew Silver, associate professor of English, writes the documentary play Combustible/Burn, performed at Mercer's Backdoor Theatre. This play is the result of an intensive project, funded by a grant from University Commons, in which four Mercer students help Dr. Silver interview a total of 120 people active in the early civil rights movement in Macon. Nearly every word of the play comes directly from these interviews and the research Dr. Silver and the students conducted in Mercer's Jack Tarver Library.
Mercer opens its yearlong commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the University's integration with a convocation in Willingham Auditorium featuring a keynote speech by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and civil rights pioneer Andrew Young.