In My Place

byCharlayne Hunter-Gault.Farrar Straus & Giroux, $19.00. Ms. Hunter-Gault, now a well-known television correspondent, was one of the two black students whose entrance to the University of Georgia in 1961 desegregated that institution—with much national attention and local uproar. Her graceful and unpretentious memoir, however, is concerned less with that civil-rights triumph than with what it wras like to grow up as the daughter of a distinguished dynasty of preachers in a generally self-sufficient minority community. The Hunters were not poor— her father was an Army chaplain—and unpleasant collisions with neighboring whites were either unknown or have been omitted. The brick-throwing that greeted the author at the university is described without rancor, as her commitment to the cause of civil rights is described without heat. One learns about segregated schools (poor equipment, dedicated teachers), visits to farming relatives with lavish tables, prom dresses, and Ms. Hunter-Gaulfs early addiction to journalism by way of the Brenda Starr comic strip. Most of these amiable recollections—including the compulsory home-economics class in which she learned “how to make white sauce”—parallel white experience. Perhaps the implication of similarity was precisely Ms. Hunter-Gault’s intention. It is only in the book’s final chapter, containing her address to the graduating class of 1988 at the University of Georgia, that she speaks bluntly of the need for “acknowledging the guiding principles of fundamental human decency and then living by them” in “a waiting and needful world.”