Not Forgotten

In Georgia Tech’s history, there are many untold stories of people whose lives were shaped before segregation ended.
Sam Bolton and the Three Pioneers

Sam Bolton and the Three Pioneers in Harrison Square at Georgia Tech

For every trailblazer, countless others are excluded, diminished, or told “No.” As easily as we celebrate progress, it is often even easier to forget the pain of those left behind.

In Georgia Tech’s history, there are many untold stories of people whose lives were shaped before segregation ended. By telling those stories, we uncover a more complex picture — and discover the power of acknowledging the past.


‘This Mattered’

“My grandfather’s history is Tech history,” said Samantha “Sam” Bolton. “Walking past the Trailblazers statue pains me, because my family experienced the same struggle — just too early to get any recognition at all.”

Bolton is a second-year student in the Scheller College of Business. Her grandfather, Robert Cheeseboro, applied for and was denied admission to Tech as a transfer student from Morehouse College in 1953. “This was a teenager who just wanted to be seen as a human being and wanted to get a degree. He wanted to innovate; he wanted to create things,” she said.

Two years ago, Bolton read her grandfather’s correspondence with Georgia Tech’s registrar and the Board of Regents in an archival collection her mother had tracked down online at the Library of Congress. “I don’t think I fully understood the gravity of it until we found correspondence with Thurgood Marshall,” she recalled, “and articles about him in newspapers throughout the country. So, I thought, OK, this mattered.”

She has been sharing her grandfather’s story ever since — because, she said, “The worst thing Tech did wasn’t to reject him; the worst thing they did was to forget him.”


Moving Forward

Bolton wants to change that.

In 2022, she founded the Organization for Social Activism (OSA), which aims to spread awareness and education on current events and pursue justice through the principles of community, compassion, and collaboration.

The following year, OSA and the Georgia Tech Black Alumni Organization hosted a forum on the overturning of affirmative action by the U.S. Supreme Court and the need for open and transparent communication between students and administrators. And, she argued, it was necessary to be transparent about the past in order to navigate current policy changes and shape the future. 


His Story

Cheeseboro was an aspiring mechanical engineer born in Mobile, Alabama, and raised in Columbus, Georgia. In February 1953, the honors student submitted his transcript and a recommendation letter to the Georgia Tech registrar. Months of silence passed, with Cheeseboro repeatedly asking for a response.

Finally, the Board of Regents offered him scholarship aid to study engineering out of state, because engineering was not offered by any Georgia colleges open to Black students.

Meanwhile, in June, four months after his transcript and recommendation letter submission, Georgia Tech’s registrar mailed the forms necessary for Cheeseboro to complete his admission application. They reflected a new policy adopted specifically to keep Cheeseboro, and other potential Black applicants, out: It required applicants to provide attestations of “good moral character” from two alumni.* In the segregated South, this was virtually impossible for Black students.

So, he decided to accept the out-of-state scholarship, moving to New York to attend the University of Rochester. After graduating, he settled in Crenshaw, California, where he earned patents — but little money — on numerous inventions, including a portable record player. In the face of ongoing racial barriers and with limited financial resources, he and his wife raised three daughters.


Historical Accountability

Many decades later, Bolton achieved what her grandfather was prevented from doing, enrolling as an engineering student at Tech. In her second year, she switched to business, with a concentration in organization and leadership — and a plan to combine her passion for art and activism through nonprofit work, building art spaces in developing countries and low-income communities.

Bolton also wants to keep her grandfather’s story, and stories like his, alive. On Wednesday, Feb. 28, she and the OSA, along with archivists and members of the Student Government Association and the NAACP, will participate in a conversation hosted by the Library about Georgia Tech in the Jim Crow era, how desegregation happened at Tech, and historical accountability.

Cheeseboro died in 2022, before Bolton arrived on campus.

“Even if he didn’t know it, he was a trailblazer,” she said. “I would want him to know that he genuinely paved the way for the people who came after him, and that I’m not going to let him be forgotten.”


*NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Records, Box 132, Library of Congress.

Additional Media

Sam Bolton

Sam Bolton, undergraduate business administration major

Robert Cheeseboro

Robert Cheeseboro