The Baby Name Charlayne

© 1961 Jet

The baby name Charlayne saw peak usage in 1961 — after a decade of being used so infrequently that it didn’t even register in the U.S. baby name data.

  • 1963: 29 baby girls named Charlayne
  • 1962: 15 baby girls named Charlayne
  • 1961: 66 baby girls named Charlayne
  • 1960: unlisted
  • 1959: unlisted

What happened in 1961 to give this name such a boost?

On January 9, 1961, two African American college students — 18-year-old Charlayne Hunter and 19-year-old Hamilton Holmes — arrived at the campus of the all-white University of Georgia to enroll, as per a federal court order to desegregate. In her memoir, Charlayne wrote:

Sure enough, we were greeted by a raucous crowd made up of some of the 20,000 white students at UGA. They limited their violence to words, calling out things like, “There go the niggers.”

Rioting broke out on January 11. “A student mob threw bricks at Charlayne’s dormitory and yelled vulgarities up at her window.” State police arrived to restrain the rioters. Charlayne and Hamilton were driven off campus, and — “for their own safety” — the university suspended them.

Finally, January 16, they returned to campus “in a cold drizzling rain from their homes in Atlanta under another federal order forbidding the university from again suspending or expelling them if disorders erupt.”

Ultimately, they became the first African-Americans “to successfully desegregate an all-white college anywhere in the South.”

Charlayne and Hamilton graduated in June of 1963. (Both had completed the first half of their sophomore year at other schools before enrolling at UGA.)

Charlayne went on to become an award-winning journalist. (Notably, while at the New York Times, she “convinc[ed] the editors to drop their use of the word Negroes when referring to African Americans.”)

What are your thoughts on the name Charlayne?

Sources:

  • “First Negroes win Georgia U. Diplomas.” Life 14 Jun. 1963: 36.
  • Hunter-Gault, Charlayne. To the Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement. New York: Roaring Book Press, 2012.
  • Mullen, Perry. “Two Negroes Enter School Without Trouble.” Ottawa Herald [Ottawa, Kansas] 16 Jan. 1961: 1.
  • “Prank, Riot and Shock on Georgia Campus.” Life 20 Jan 1961: 24-25.

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