Though the first African American student graduated from the University of Alabama in 1965, she was not the first African American student enrolled. That distinction belongs to Autherine Lucy Foster, who began attending the university in 1956. In fact, Foster was the first African American student to enroll in a white university in the entire state of Alabama. Predictably, her path was a difficult one.
The victory, though significant, was short-lived. After Myers’s rejection, Foster had to continue her journey alone. She attended her first class in February 1956, and public backlash soon escalated. Foster required a police escort to protect her from increasingly angry protestors, who gathered in the hundreds and assaulted Foster with rotten eggs. Mere days after her enrollment, the university’s Board of Trustees voted to remove her. Though the decision was purportedly for Foster’s safety, it was a bitter end to her stand for academic justice. At the end of February, Foster was officially expelled from the university due to anger over her attorneys suggesting that the University conspired with the mob.
Foster’s expulsion stood until 1988, when officials voted to overturn it, and she returned to the University of Alabama to pursue a master’s in education. She graduated alongside her daughter, and today she is recognized with two landmarks on campus: a historic placard outside Graves Hall and the Autherine Lucy Clock Tower. In May 2019, Foster was granted an honorary doctorate by the university to recognize her role as a trailblazer for civil rights in Alabama.
About the Author
Lauren Collins is a junior majoring in English and minoring in General Business. She was born in Herndon, Virginia, and lived there until she began her degree at the University of Alabama. She is currently a resident advisor and a student intern at Alabama Heritage Magazine. Following graduation, Lauren hopes to attend graduate school to pursue an M.S. in management.