At 73, Man Finally Gets Diploma Denied for Defying Segregation
Earley, now a retired attorney, says he never thought the day would come, but as the Galesburg class of ‘59 gathered for a reunion this weekend, the school superintendent called Earley forward, dressed in his college gown, to accept his diploma.
A school counselor had warned him in 1959 there could be a price to pay for challenging the city’s entrenched segregation — but Earley went anyway.
“We were just trying to send a message that we are people, too,” Earley says. “We just had lunch. For that, I didn’t graduate.”
Universities, including Northwestern and the University of Chicago, withdrew their acceptance letters. The president of Knox College in Galesburg later allowed Earley to enroll after learning about the park incident.