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Thursday, July 18, 2024

50 years after she was denied admission, 89-year-old black woman finally earns doctorate degree at University of Alabama

60 years after she was denied admission at the University of Alabama, United States (US), an 89-year-old woman named Autherine Lucy Foster has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University.

Lucy received an honorary doctorate from the University of Alabama, United States, decades after being rejected by the same university for being black. In 1952, she applied to the all-white university after she had obtained an English degree at Miles College, US but her acceptance was rejected because she was Black.

After a lengthy legal battle, she enrolled again in 1956 and was able to attend classes until she was expelled three days after due to persistent riots and death threats against her.

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After that, African-American students were only allowed to enter the campus in 1963, following the infamous stand in the school house door where Governor George Wallace pledged “segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.”

 

 

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Lucy’s dismissal from the school was annulled in 1988, and she graduated with a master’s degree in education from the University of Alabama in 1991, more than 35 years after attending her first class at the university.

She was presented with an honorary doctorate in  Humane Letters at the university’s 2019 graduation ceremonies. Lucy was welcomed with applause and a standing ovation from the crowd, a lot different from the situation about 60 years ago.

“I wasn’t crying, but tears were just rolling down my eyes because it’s just so different and so unique for me to be able to come back to such a university as this. The difference is the crowds are here. I see laughing faces instead of people frowning and displeased with me being here,” she said.

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Lucy was not only honored with the honorary doctorate but being the first person to black person to go to a white school or university in the state, a pair of scholarships were named after her.

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A historic marker that outlines her story was placed near the site where she first tried to enroll in the school, only to be turned away by an angry mob. The clock tower in the university was also named after her.

“I feel elated. Somewhat embarrassed because I don’t feel exactly worthy of what I’m getting. But I’m going to thank them and act as if I can,” she said.

Lucy also received another honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Miles College where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English weeks after she was honored at the University of Alabama.

“Autherine Lucy Foster was afflicted in every way, but not crushed. She was perplexed, but not driven to despair. She was persecuted, but never forsaken,” Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, chairman of the Miles College Board of Trustees said.

The President of the university, Bobbie Knight who is the first woman president of Miles College thanked Lucy for breaking down barriers so black students could follow their dreams.

“Now, here I stand as the first female president of Miles College. We wish this ceremony had been held many years ago, but in many ways that I can count, I am personally honored that it happened under my watch,” she said. 

Lucy mentioned that her love for the institution was as strong as when she attended Miles College and graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 1952. “I see all of you now and I’m just full to the brim and I’m so very happy to be here with you. I don’t have to tell you that I love you. You know that I love Miles College,” she said.

 

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