Plaza named for first African-American students to attend USM - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Plaza named for first African-American students to attend USM

Raylawni Branch (left) and Gwendolyn Armstrong Chamberlain (far right) unveil a plaque Friday honoring them for helping to desegregate USM in 1965. Raylawni Branch (left) and Gwendolyn Armstrong Chamberlain (far right) unveil a plaque Friday honoring them for helping to desegregate USM in 1965.
HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

A new plaza at Southern Miss has been named in honor of the the first two African-American students to attend that university.

The Armstrong-Branch Plaza recognizes the efforts of Gwendolyn Armstrong Chamberlain and Raylawni G.A. Branch to desegregate USM. Both enrolled at the university on Sept. 6, 1965.

Friday morning, a plaque bearing their names was unveiled and a ribbon was cut officially opening the Plaza.

"I am so overwhelmed," said Gwendolyn Armstrong Chamberlain. "I can't begin to express how grateful I am to be a Golden Eagle and recognized for the long way that we have come in education and especially here at USM," she said.

"I don't know what to say, it's just a wonderful thing," said Raylawni Branch. "You don't think of your name before you die, being on anything," she said.  

 

The Mississippi Dept. of Transportation provided funds to build both the plaza and a new fence which runs along the south end of the campus.

The plaza is located between Joseph Greene Hall and the Liberal Arts Building.

 

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