On this day in 1956

by Jerry Mitchell, Mississippi Today
March 1, 2024

March 1, 1956

Autherine Lucy pictured here with Roy Wilkins, left, executive director of the national NAACP, and Thurgood Marshall, who led the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The University of Alabama expelled Autherine Lucy, the first Black student ever admitted. Thousands of students rioted. 

Lucy charged in court that university officials had been complicit in allowing the disorder, as a means of avoiding compliance with the court order. The trustees expelled her for making such “outrageous, false and baseless accusations.” 

In 1980, the university overturned her expulsion, and a dozen years later, she earned a master’s degree in elementary education at the university, which endowed a scholarship in her name. The institution also hung a portrait with this inscription: “Her initiative and courage won the right for students of all races to attend the university.” 

When the university honored her with a monument in 2019, she looked at the huge gathering and said, “The last time I saw a crowd like this, I didn’t know what they were waiting for.” 

She told the students, “If you don’t know your history, you will forget your past.” She recalled the hate she was showered with when she enrolled and the scripture that gave her strength: “The Lord is with me; I will not fear: What can man do to me?”

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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