About the Mary Frances Early Speaker Series

Each year, a speaker is invited to deliver a lecture that honors Ms. Early’s quiet determination and dignity as she strived to ensure that the state’s flagship university became an institution of higher learning for all the people of Georgia.

The 23rd Annual Mary Frances Early Lecture will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 7.​​​​​​​ This year marks the 61st anniversary of Mary Frances Early’s graduation in 1962 as the first African American to earn a graduate degree from UGA.  

To honor Ms. Early, Ms. Monica Kaufman Pearson will deliver the 2023 lecture.  Monica is the first woman and first minority to anchor the daily evening news in Atlanta, Georgia, where she worked for 37 years at the leading station, WSB-TV. When she retired in 2012, she was honored on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by the bipartisan delegation of the State of Georgia for her years of service on and off the air to improve the lives of the citizens of Georgia.

Monica Kaufman Pearson chats with WUGA’s Alexia Ridley about this year’s event,  Feb. 1, 2023 – listen here.

“Monica Pearson celebrates those who make headlines: Trailblazing journalist shares stories at annual Mary Frances Early Lecture” – UGA Today

Continue reading about the speaker

Lecture Vision and History

The annual lecture demonstrates the progress that has been made while also recognizing that work remains to fully realize Ms. Early’s vision. With pride, we salute Ms. Early for all that she has accomplished and for the excellence, integrity, fortitude, and grace that she represents.

In 1999, Graduate and Professional Scholars (GAPS) members Tracey Ford and Valerie White proposed that Ms. Early serves as the featured speaker for the GAPS Spring Lecture. Her selection was prompted in part by her appearance in Foot Soldiers for Equal Justice, the documentary chronicling the desegregation of the University of Georgia. Dr. Maurice Daniels, the former GAPS co-advisor, served as senior researcher and executive director of the Foot Soldiers project.

Following Ms. Early’s keynote address on April 18, 2000, GAPS renamed its annual spring lecture in her honor. In 2010, in consultation with Ms. Early, the Graduate School assumed responsibility for the event, working in partnership with GAPS to promote and maintain the event’s visibility and consistency.

The Mary Frances Early Lecture is sponsored in part by the Graduate School, Graduate and Professional Scholars (GAPS), the Mary Frances Early College of Education, and the Office Institutional Diversity (OID).

More about Ms. Mary Frances Early’s Published Autobiography

Ms. Mary Frances Early’s autobiography, “The Quiet Trailblazer: My Journey as the First Black Graduate of the University of Georgia recounts her experience coming to campus as one of the first Black students to enroll at UGA. In August 1962, Ms. Early once again made history as the first Black student to earn a Graduate degree from UGA. She earned a master’s degree in music education. She chronicles her career as a music educator, first teaching in segregated schools before blazing trails to lead the Atlanta City Schools music education department and then becoming the first African American elected president of the Georgia Music Educators Association.

Mary Frances Early discusses her autobiography with WUGA’s Alexia Ridley,  Sept. 22, 2021 – listen here.

Previous Speakers


Monica Kaufman Pearson – First Female & African American News Anchor in Atlanta


Robert J. Jones – Chancellor of the University of Illinois


Marion Ross Fedrick – President, Albany State University


Dr. Christopher Emdin – Associate Professor, New York Times bestselling author, Founder of #hiphoped social media movement


Bakari Sellers – Attorney, Politician, and CNN Political Analyst


Dr. Joycelyn Elders – 16th U.S. Surgeon General


Dr. Johnetta B. Cole – Anthropologist, and Former President of Spelman and Benedict Colleges


Michael Thurmond – Superintendent of the DeKalb County School District, distinguished attorney, and author


Donna Brazile – Vice Chair of Voter Registration and Participation for the Democratic National Committee


Hank Klibanoff – James M. Cox, Jr. Professor of Journalism at Emory University


Cynthia Tucker – Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at UGA


Rep. John Lewis – U.S. Representative of Georgia’s 5th District


Ambassador Andrew Young – GoodWorks International LLC


Dr. Maurice Daniels – Dean of UGA School of Social Work


Ms. Harriet A. Washington – Medical ethicist


Ms. Elaine Brown, Esq. – Politician, activist


Dr. Michael Eric Dyson – Religious scholar, commentator


Ms. Charisse Jones & Dr. Kumea Shorter-Gooden – Authors


Dr. Nai’m Akbar – Professor of Psychology


Dr. Mitchell F. Rice – Political scientist


Dr. Sharon Ames Dennard – 2002 Working Mother of the Year


Dr. Reuben Warren – Bioethics researcher


Ms. Mary Frances Early – Civil rights pioneer, music educator


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