How Kenneth Dious Helped Defend Black Students When Integration at the University of Georgia Turned Violent

Kenneth Dious

On the “Seven Days of 1961” podcast, activists, many of whom were teenagers, share how they risked everything to challenge white supremacy.

In episode one, Kenneth Dious shares his story of the night he stood guard for a Black student who had just attended her first day of classes at the University of Georgia. He was only 15 years old when word spread in his hometown of Athens, Georgia, that a violent white mob had gathered outside the dorm room of Charlayne Hunter-Gault. Kenneth and three other Black men rushed to the crowd, ready to fight if needed.

The “Seven Days of 1961” podcast features stories of resistance, told by the people who lived it. Learn more about the heroic civil rights activists and the danger they faced at 7daysof1961.usatoday.com.

Hit play on the podcast player above and read along with the transcript below.

Kenneth Dious:

We were going to put our lives at risk. The crowd seemed really real. It wasn’t just a jest as to what they were doing, and they were throwing bottles and so forth. So I was afraid for myself and her.

Nathalie Boyd:

This is Kenneth Dious, a freedom fighter. Every episode, of this seven podcast series, brings you to the center of a major civil rights’ event through the voice of an activist who lived it. Each had no clue what would happen next, all while facing the very real threat of death and violence. Their courageous actions helped to end segregation in America. I’m Natalie Boyd, a podcast producer with USA Today. This is the ‘Seven Days of 1961’ podcast. Hear history from the people who made it.

Kenneth Dious:

I am a long-life resident of Athens, Georgia. I grew up in the civil rights movement here. I was a community activist. And when I was a child, a young man, I marched against the klan, and participated in the sit-ins, and the activities of the cities in regard to the integration of Athens, Georgia.

Nathalie Boyd:

On January 11, 1961, the first two black students of the University of Georgia, Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes, began their first day of class. At nightfall, a riot targeting Charlayne Hunter-Gault erupted outside her dormitory. When news spread in the small college town of Athens that a mob had formed, Kenneth Dious and three fellow high school classmates, bravely rushed to the scene, ready to fight if needed.

Kenneth Dious:

Somehow we got the word that this crowd had appeared in front of Center Myers Hall in front of Charlayne Hunter’s dorm room. I’m, at this time, about 15 years of age. So some of the other guys that were with me in the civil rights movement, activists, we decided to go to see what was going on. When we arrived, it was dark, probably 9, 9:30 may have been 10:00. We see this huge crowd standing outside of Center Myers Hall jeering and throwing things and so forth.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Shannon Rae Green and Claire Thornton

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