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The University of Alabama’s first African American student dies


The first African American to enroll at the University of Alabama had died. Autherine Lucy attended the Tuscaloosa campus for around three days back in 1956. She was expelled by the University after protests by white students. Lucy attended the re-naming of the College of Education building in her honor last week. She addressed a crowd of well-wishers and shared her philosophy from that turbulent time.

“The Lord is on my side, I will not fear…what can man do unto me? And one person, answered when I said that…nothing!” Lucy said.

University trustees originally chose to name the Education College after both Autherine Lucy and Bibb Graves, an Alabama leader of the Ku Klux Klan. That decision was reversed so only Lucy’s name is being used. Work crews installed large stone panels, each engraved with two to three letters of Lucy’s name. She was also named a “master teacher” at the dedication event.

“But, I’m so glad to be here, and I owe you a debt of gratitude,” Lucy said. Because this is the first time I’ve been out since I lost my husband, almost three years ago. I don’t go out very much.”

The University of Alabama rescinded Lucy’s expulsion in 1988. She later returned to Tuscaloosa to complete her Master’s degree. UA later awarded Lucy an honorary doctorate. University of Alabama President Stuart Bell issued a statement saying that while the campus “mourns the loss of a legend who embodied love, integrity and a spirit of determination, we are comforted by knowing her legacy will continue at The University of Alabama and beyond.”

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
Related Content
  • The University of Alabama’s first African American student will be on hand for the dedication of the re-naming of the campus’s College of Education building in her honor. Work crews installed large stone panels spelling “Autherine Lucy Hall” last weekend. The part reading “H-E-R” of her name is featured above
  • The University of Alabama’s College of Education has a new name. The Tuscaloosa campus officially unveiled the building as Autherine Lucy Hall. She was the University’s first African American student back in 1956. Lucy was on campus for only about three days before she was run off by white students
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