Sixty years ago, the first major step was made toward desegregating the University of Alabama. Autherine Lucy, a black woman from Shiloh, Alabama, was enrolled – and a few days later suspended, eventually expelled, though she had done nothing wrong.
We tend to focus on 1963, on the bizarre segregationist pageantry of the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, perhaps because it was ultimately unsuccessful. This week, we want to focus on something harder to take in but just as important to remember: when segregation unfortunately won.
In addition to this post, see the entry on our sister blog, Cool at Hoole: Chronicling UA’s First Steps Toward Desegregation.
While Acumen is not home to many items chronicling Autherine Lucy’s enrollment in UA and the resultant backlash, it does hold one important resource: digitized copies of the Crimson White from February 1956.
The issues of February 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th reflect the campus’s own view of the events, everything from photos of a lonely Lucy to images of the crowds protesting her presence, from reports of hooliganism to apologies proffered to UA President Oliver Carmichael.
One especially interesting part of the coverage is the response of outsiders — from across the state, the country, and even the world. In the February 14 issue, the CW gave over three pages to just some of two hundred or so letters addressed to the newspaper, the community, or the students themselves.
Read them in their entirety here (click on the thumbnails) or see the highlights that follow.
Some are from those who wanted to maintain the status quo; they were either agreed with the mob’s actions or were still quite concerned about the possibility of Lucy’s remaining at UA. (Click on any thumbnail to see the letter in full.)
Others, perhaps not particularly concerned about the question of segregation, were simply appalled at the students’ behavior.
Still others, aghast at Lucy’s treatment, supported full desegregation. Their tones ranged from patient and imploring to frustrated and disapproving to snarky and ironic.