‘Civil rights trailblazer’

University of Alabama honors its 1st black student — 60 years after her expulsion

Autherine Lucy Foster receives an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Alabama. (Facebook/University of Alabama)

The University of Alabama has honored its first black attendee, Autherine Lucy Foster, for the first time since she made history more than 60 years ago by becoming the first African-American student to attend a white school or university in the state.

“I love The University of Alabama, and it is an honor to be recognized in this way,” said Foster, 89, after being awarded an honorary doctorate degree from the school on Friday. “I am thankful for opportunities such as this, which allow us to talk about [the] past while looking to the future.”

Foster had first applied to UA in 1952, only to have her acceptance later rescinded by the school because of her race. After a federal court order forced UA to allow her to attend, Foster began taking classes on the Tuscaloosa campus in 1956. Her arrival at the school was greeted with racist protests and death threats decrying her presence, and UA administrators expelled her just three days after she began attending classes.

Foster would not return to the school until more than 30 years later. She graduated with a master’s degree in education from UA in 1991.

On Friday, the university’s president, Stuart Bell, hailed Foster as a “civil rights trailblazer” and “the architect of desegregating Alabama’s education systems.”

“Her tenacious spirit, gracious heart for helping others and unfailing belief in the value of education and human rights positions Mrs. Foster as a meaningful example of what one can achieve in the face of adversity,” said Bell.

In addition to providing Foster with an honorary doctorate degree, the school announced that they would be creating two endowed scholarships, two campus landmarks, and a number of awards in her honor.

Read the full story at The Atlanta Black Star.

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