By, Taylor Garrett
When being expelled just three days after starting college, why not give up? Autherine J. Lucy, the first African American at the University of Alabama, was determined to give society a reason why she wasn’t.
UA is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of integration of the school known as Through the Doors 1963-2013. Vivian J. Malone and James A. Hood successfully enrolled with the 8,257 other students attending the university at that time.
The student outside of the dash between 1963 and 2013 is Autherine J. Lucy, who was accepted in 1952 but not admitted into UA until 1956. Even though she only attended the university for three days due to expulsion, her acceptance was not included in the 50-year time span.
George Terrell Garrett, 85, a resident of Tuscaloosa, Alabama remembers when the university was first integrated.
“It was almost causing riots,” he said. “The reaction was very bad and unpleasant.”
Lucy’s experience was anything but ordinary at her three-day stay at the University of Alabama. More than 2,000 people gathered— UA students, the surrounding community, and members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK)– to protest her enrollment.
By the end of her third day, university officials suggested transportation by car to ensure her safety. When proceeding to the car, she was showered with rotten eggs as well as insults and threats.
It was then that the University’s Board of Trustees voted to expel Lucy to make sure this horrible behavior
would cease on campus grounds.
“The National Guard televised and asked residents to stay away from UA to protect students entering the school,” Garrett said. “Clearly, the warning was not taken to some.”
Lucy and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) issued a complaint against the university for helping the organization of the mob that kept Lucy from attending class. The complaint was withdrawn but Lucy’s expulsion was still in tact.
Lucy returned to campus as Autherine Lucy Foster and graduated in 1992 with a master’s degree in education. Fifty years is something to celebrate but Foster’s attempt at enrollment on February 1, 1956 jumpstarted the integration movement for the university. This event would lead to more enrollments and official integration seven years later.
Autherine paved the pathway for Malone and Hood in 1956.
Jim Oakley, a professor at The University of Alabama, was a student during the time of integration of the school.
“The school is a lot better,” Oakley said. “A lot more diverse. It’s overall a better place.”
Today, among the 33,602 enrolled, twelve percent are African American, which are about 4,032 students; a change at the University of Alabama and colleges everywhere.