February 3, 1956
On this day in 1956, Autherine Lucy attended her first class at the University of Alabama, and became the first African-American to do so. Originally enrolled to seek her master’s in education in 1952, Lucy was denied by school administrators who discovered she was black. After three years of court battles, Lucy was able to re-enroll for the spring term of 1956. After a few days, her presence on campus brought large crowds of protesters, sometimes numbering in the thousands. Claiming an interest in Lucy’s safety, the board of trustees voted to exclude her. When her attorneys claimed the protests were orchestrated to make her leave, the trustees expelled her. African-American students would not return successfully to the university until Gov. George Wallace’s infamous stand in the schoolhouse door in 1963. Lucy’s expulsion was eventually lifted in 1988, and she earned her master’s degree in 1992.
Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.
For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.