Mercer University
January 14, 1833 Mercer Institute opens in Penfield with 22 students enrolled.
1893-96 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
1936-1940 As part of Mercer's extension program, members of the University faculty instructed African-American students at Macon's Central City College in a variety of courses.
1950 Desegregation becomes a hot topic at Mercer, with several seminars held on campus. These conversations occur four years before the Brown v. Board of Education decision.
May 17, 1954 The Supreme Court issues the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, overturning Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and declaring that with regard to public schools “separate educational
September 10, 1954 In response to a question from the Association of American Law Schools Special Committee on Racial Discrimination, the Executive Committee of Mercer's Board of Trustees passes a resolution that
January 6, 1961 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,
June 3, 1961 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
July 1962 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
July 24th, 1962 Macon Telegraph
October 1962 The Board of Trustees votes to appoint a special committee to study the matter of admission of black students to the University.
November 2, 1962 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
April 16, 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. writes "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."
April 18, 1963 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
April 19th, 1963: The Mercer Cluster
May 3, 1963 In a letter published in The Cluster, Joe Daniel asks fellow students to raise $75 for Sam Oni's dorm fees "as a gesture of approval and friendship."
June 12, 1963 Civil rights activist and Mississippi's NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Wiley Evers is assassinated in Jackson, Miss.
August 28, 1963 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
September 15, 1963 A bomb explodes at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., killing four girls attending Sunday school.
September 1963 Bennie Stephens and Cecil Dewberry of Macon begin classes at Mercer with Sam Oni. The three were the first black students to enroll at the University.
September 17th, 1963: New York Times
Bennie Stephens ROTC
September 1963 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
September 22, 1963 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 to join a church affiliated with
Summer 1964 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
July 2, 1964 Congress passes the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ends discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender and religion.
1965 Cecil Dewberry becomes Mercer's first black graduate.
Summer 1966 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
1966 Summer Upward Bound Photo 1
1966 Summer Upward Bound Photo 2
May 1967 Bennie Stephens and Sam Oni graduate from the University. Oni vows to never return to Georgia again due to the difficulties he experienced while in Macon, primarily in the religious community.
1967 Ronald Myrick becomes the first black student to graduate from Mercer's Southern School of Pharmacy in Atlanta.
1968 Betty Jean Walker is the first female African-American to receive a four-year degree from Mercer.
1968 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
Andrew Young and Sam Oni, 1968
1968 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
April 1, 1969 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
1970 Black Student Alliance
April 29th, 1969: The Mercer Cluster
February 1970 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,"
1970 Lou Johnson, Mercer's first black athlete, graduates from the University.
Lou Johnson Mercer 1968 Baseball Team
1972 Mercer alumnus Gary Johnson is appointed coordinator of the Black Studies program and becomes the first black faculty member at Mercer.
Gary Johnson First Black Faculty Member at Mercer
1972 Jerry Boykin, J.D., is the first African-American to graduate from Mercer Law School.
Jerry Boykin First African American to Graduate from Mercer Law School
1994 The Stem of Jesse: The Costs of Community at a 1960s Southern School, a book about Mercer's integration by Will Campbell, is published by the Mercer University Press.
January 1994 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
Fall 2001 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
2013 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.

50th Anniversary of Integration

Beginning with an August 28 observance of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the University will commemorate over the course of this academic year both the anniversary of Mercer’s integration and Dr. King’s call for an end to racism in America and the creation of a beloved community.

Under the theme “Looking Back, Moving Forward: Celebrating a Half-Century of Integration at Mercer University,” alumni, students, faculty, staff, trustees and others will reflect on the progress we have made within our University community and nation over the past 50 years.

But the work is not done. Through lectures, programs, classroom discussions, service initiatives and conversations across our campuses, we will also redouble our efforts to make Dr. King’s dream a reality at Mercer and in our communities.

Check this website often throughout the year to join in the conversation and to learn about the past, the present and the future. Also check the website for news and announcements concerning programs and initiatives associated with this historic commemoration. And, join the conversation on Twitter: #mercer50th.