Autherine Lucy

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Autherine Juanita Lucy
Autherine Lucy with Roy Wilkins and Thurgood Marshall of NAACP, 1955
Born Autherine Juanita Lucy
(1929-10-05) October 5, 1929 (age 90)
Shiloh, Alabama, U.S.
Nationality American
Ethnicity Black
Citizenship U.S.
Education Selma University AA in English
Miles College in Fairfield, Alabama, BA in English, 1952
University of Alabama, MA in Elementary Education, 1992
Alma mater Selma University, Miles College, University of Alabama
Occupation Educator, professor
Years active 1956-present
Known for first black student to attend the University of Alabama, 1956

Autherine Juanita Lucy was the first black student to attend the University of Alabama, in 1956.[1]

Autherine was born on October 5, 1929 in Shiloh, Alabama. Her father was a sharecropper; she was the youngest child in a family of five sons and four daughters.[2] After attending public school in Shiloh through grade ten, she attended Linden Academy in Linden, Alabama.[3] She graduated in 1947, and went on to attend Selma University in Selma for two years, after which she studied at the all-black Miles College in Fairfield. She graduated from Miles with a BA in English in 1952.[2]

In September of that year, she and a friend, Pollie Myers, a civil rights activist with the NAACP, applied to the University of Alabama. Lucy later said that she wanted a second undergraduate degree, not for political reasons but to get the best possible education in the state. Although the women were accepted, their admittance was rescinded when the authorities discovered they were not white. Backed by the NAACP, Lucy and Myers charged the University of Alabama with racial discrimination in a court case that took almost three years to resolve. While waiting, Lucy worked as an English teacher in Carthage, Mississippi, and as a secretary at an insurance company.[4]

On June 29, 1955, the NAACP secured a court order preventing the University from rejecting the admission applications of Lucy and her friend based upon their race.[5] Autherine was finally admitted to the University of Alabama but rejected Myers on the grounds that a child she had conceived before marriage made her an unsuitable student. However, Autherine was barred from all dormitories and dining halls. Days later, the court amended the order to apply to all other African-American students seeking admission.[6] At least two sources have said that the board hoped that without Hudson, the more outgoing and assured of the pair and whose idea it originally was to enroll at Alabama, Lucy's own acceptance would mean little or nothing to her, and she would voluntarily choose not to attend. But Hudson and others strongly encouraged her, and on February 3, 1956, Lucy enrolled as a graduate student in library science, becoming the first African American ever admitted to a white public school or university in the state.[7][8]

She attended her first class on Friday February 3, 1956. On Monday February 6, 1956 riots broke out on the campus and a mob of more than a thousand men pelted the car in which the Dean of Women drove Lucy between classes. Threats were made against her life and the presidents home was stoned.[9] The police were called to secure her admission. These riots at the university were what was, to date, the most violent post-Brown anti-integration demonstration. After the riots, the University suspended Autherine from school because her own safety was a concern.[4]

Autherine and the NAACP filed contempt-of-court proceedings against the trustees and president of the University; against the dean of women for barring her from the dining hall and dormitories, and against four other men (none connected to the university) for participating in the riots.[10] The federal courts ordered that Lucy be reinstated after the university had taken adequate measures to protect her. When she was reinstated on February 29 by court order of the Birmingham Federal Court the University trustees met and expelled her permanently on a hastily contrived technicality.[6] The university used the case as a justification for her permanent expulsion. University officials claimed that Lucy had slandered the university and they could not have her as a student.

The NAACP, feeling that further legal action was pointless, did not contest this decision. Lucy, tired and scared, acquiesced. In April 1956, in Dallas, Lucy married Hugh Foster, a divinity student (and later a minister) whom she had met at Miles College. For some months afterward she was a civil rights advocate, making speeches at NAACP meetings around the country. But by the end of the year, her active involvement in the civil rights movement had ceased. For the next seventeen years, Lucy and her family lived in various cities in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Her notoriety made it difficult at first for her to find employment as a teacher. The Fosters moved back to Alabama in 1974, and Lucy obtained a position in the Birmingham school system.[4]

In April 1988 Autherine Lucy's expulsion was annulled by the University of Alabama. She enrolled in the graduate program in education the following year and received an M.A. degree in May 1992. In the course of the commencement ceremonies, the University of Alabama named an endowed fellowship in her honor.[4] In a complete reversal of spirit from when she was first admitted there, the university named an endowed scholarship in her honor and unveiled a portrait of her in the student union overlooking the most trafficked spot on campus. The inscription reads "Her initiative and courage won the right for students of all races to attend the University. She is a sister of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority."[11]

See also


  1. "Civil rights pioneer Vivian Jones dies". USA Today. 2005-10-13. Retrieved 2007-11-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Autherine J. Lucy, "Miss Autherine Lucy Tells of Hectic Alabama U. Crusade." Atlanta Daily World, February 9, 1956, p. 1.
  3. Ethel L. Payne, "Autherine Lucy Youngest of Nine in Alabama Family." Chicago Defender, February 8, 1956, p. 5.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Palmer, Colin A. (2006). Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. Web: Gale Virtual Reference Library. pp. 1346–1347. Retrieved 15 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. The Schoolhouse Door:Segregation's Last Stand at the University of Alabama. E. Culpepper Clark. New York, Oxford. Oxford University Press, 1993, p.55.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Huges, Longston; Meltzer, Milton; Lincoln, C. Eric; Spencer, Jon Michael (1971). A Pictorial History of African Americans. Crown Publishers, Inc. pp. 306–307. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Clark, p.56
  8. Roberts, Gene and Hank Klibanoff (2006). The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 129–131. ISBN 0-679-40381-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Huges, Longston; Meltzer, Milton; Lincoln, C. Eric; Spencer, Jon Michael (1995). A Pictorial history of African Americans. crown Publishers, Inc. pp. 306–307. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Polski, Ph.D., Harry A.; Kaiser, Ernest (1971). The Negro Almanac: The Black Experience in America. Bellwether Publishing Company. p. 39-30. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Clark, p.260.

External links