U of Alabama's 1st Black Student Who Was Expelled in 1956 Gets Honorary Degree
Foster finally triumphed in the face of adversity! Civil rights activist, Autherine was given an honorary doctorate by UA for being the first black woman to attend a white school in the state of Alabama.
3 days after she walked onto the Univ. of Alabama campus, Autherine Lucy Foster, a black student, was expelled.— MPR News (@MPRnews) May 7, 2019
Last weekend, she returned to the campus, this time in a wheelchair, to receive an honorary degree. She’s 89 now.https://t.co/3fmexRuWF2 pic.twitter.com/MP4td2v9EN
The 89-year-old was very happy for the remembrance and gave her acceptance speech from a wheelchair. Foster stated that she is thankful for opportunities like hers as it allows people to talk about the past while looking to the future.
Soror Autherine Lucy Foster, the 1st African-American student to attend The University of Alabama (@UofAlabama), received an honorary doctoral degree from UA at a commencement ceremony #ZetaPhiBeta #ZPHIB #UniversityofAlabama #99andFiner #Zetasgetengaged https://t.co/AOwNeCHEr3 pic.twitter.com/6AXYwvEnp0— Zeta Phi Beta (@ZPHIBHQ) May 6, 2019
In 1956, Lucy who had first applied to school at UA was denied admission because of her color. She, however, refused to lose hope and four years later, she was enrolled in the school. But her enrollment, unfortunately, caused riots on campus and she was thereby expelled from the school just three days after the resumption.
A legendary moment.— The Univ. of Alabama (@UofAlabama) May 3, 2019
Thank you to civil rights pioneer + #UA legend Autherine Lucy Foster for her tenacious spirit in the face of adversity. We are honored to be part of this moment #TodayAtUA 🎓 #BamaGrad #WhereLegendsAreMade pic.twitter.com/WhHRxtj47n
She had taken classes for just three days before she was sent parking after news of her admission sparked racist protests and death threats against her.
Years later, Foster earned a Masters degree from the university in 1991 (more than 35 years) after her 1956 dismissal was annulled in 1988.
The University of Alabama president praises Autherine Lucy Foster's “tenacious spirit, gracious heart for helping others and unfailing belief in the value of education and human rights” while awarding her an honorary degree. https://t.co/QwcNDD5i1l pic.twitter.com/jXr8Ojkps7— AL.com (@aldotcom) May 4, 2019
Lucy re-enrolled at UA with her daughter, Grazia, and the two would later graduate together. According to a press release, Lucy's part in helping desegregate the all-white University got her a pair of scholarships, two landmarks on the campus and awards. She's also named as a UA legend and also has been inducted into the UA students' hall of fame.
The architect of desegregating Alabama’s education system, Autherine Lucy Foster’s bravery + tenacious spirit paved the way in the face of adversity. Tomorrow, we’ll be honoring our 1st civil rights trailblazer with an honorary doctoral degree 💯 https://t.co/SPKmsnT6sN #BamaGrad pic.twitter.com/Ky24ljdSPz— The Univ. of Alabama (@UofAlabama) May 3, 2019
The university president, Stuart R. Bell also released a statement, and according to him, it is an honor to present Mrs. Foster with the honorary award because her determined spirit, gracious heart for helping others and her belief in the value of education and human rights position is an excellent example of what one can achieve in the face of hardship.