A crowd gathered to listen as Sanford D. Bishop Jr., United States congressman from Georgia, delivered the 2016 Holmes-Hunter Lecture in the chapel on Feb. 18.
A notable proponent of civil rights, the congressman for Georgia’s second district joined the ranks of other leaders who had preceded him in this honor.
In the past many influential icons of the civil rights movement have delivered the lecture, including Andrew Young and Charlayne Hunter-Gault herself.
The lecture is an annual event commemorating the achievements of Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter-Gault as the first black students to enroll at the University of Georgia.
Before his lecture, Bishop was introduced by freshman Ammishaddai Grand-Jean, a political science and economics double major from Jonesboro.
Grand-Jean said Bishop was “a public servant, outstanding leader, and a role model for his generation.”
“The impact of their courage has made them true icons of American history,” Bishop said of Holmes and Hunter-Gault.
Bishop gave great deference to God and to the people who walked before him and helped him achieve his success.
“The steps of the righteous are ordered by God, I truly believe that their steps were ordered, as are mine,” Bishop said.
The congressman described his Alabama upbringing, and his first interactions with the painful realities of segregation.
“Growing up, living in an all black part of town, I didn’t understand the concept of race,” Bishop said, “but as I got older I experienced first hand the burning of crosses in my neighborhood.”
He told the stories that inspired him, in the hope that they might inspire those gathered to hear him speak.
He recalled his father speaking to him following the announcement of the Brown v. Board of Education decision.
“My father turned to me and said ‘son, things are going to change, you’ll have opportunities that we never had, but you have to be ready’,” Bishop said.
Bishop closed by quoting a poem called "Bag of Tools" and encouraged the audience to remember every person has skills that can help their fellow man.
“You have to keep passing on the flame, it was a great motivation and I want to share it with more people,” Grand-Jean said.