Autherine Lucy: Forgotten Hero An Alternative Campus Tour on Race & Memory at UA Created by Dr. Meredith M. Bagley, Communication Studies

Part One: Autherine Lucy, a forgotten hero

When most think of the Civil Rights movement and the University of Alabama, the image most likely to come to mind is of 1963's infamous "Stand in the Schoolhouse door," wherein Governor Wallace attempted to prevent Vivian Malone and James Hood from registering for their classes. Malone and Hood eventually succeeded that day and became revered figures in American history. But UA's color line had been broken seven years before by a forgotten hero named Autherine Lucy. Follow along in this digital, self-guided tour of UA campus for key dates, sites, and events from Friday, February 3 through Monday, February 6 of 1956 -- the story is underappreciated but never fails to inspire.

Who am I? I am an Associate Professor of Communication Studies who researches the power of language and symbols to effect social change. I am a historian at heart and the first thing I do in new spaces is look around for how they tell a story... Arriving at UA in the fall of 2010 I watched the dedicate of the Hood-Malone Plaza and Lucy Clocktower and fell in love with Autherine's story. I took it on as a challenge to learn as much as I could, to tell her story in engaging ways, and to bring as many visitors to HER sites of UA history. This digital self-guided tour is one part of that overall project and I look forward to all the next steps. Enjoy - she's a treasure! - Dr. Meredith M. Bagley (mbagley@ua.edu)

#1172 Smith Hall

Autherine Lucy’s first class at the University of Alabama was Geology at 9:00am in Smith Hall on Friday, Feb 3, 1956. A group of curious onlookers watched as she entered the building, but no attempt was made to stop her. She wasn't meant to be all alone - her dear friend and activism-instigator Pollie Ann Myers was rejected from her enrollment three days prior in an attempt to pressure Lucy to drop as well. Undeterred, Lucy entered Smith Hall in a smart orange suite and sat at the very front of her classroom. In later interviews, Lucy said that she had hoped someone would sit next to her. One student left in protest, saying they wouldn’t attend even for two cents. This comment started a trend of UA receiving letters in the mail over the next m onth containing two pennies in a show of support for the student.

#7205 Reese Phifer Hall: On the Friday and Saturday nights following Lucy’s first day at UA, crowds gathered on the steps of Reese Phifer in protest. (At the time the building was the Student Union; today it houses the College of Communication and Information Sciences.) Leading them was a student named Leonard Wilson, who would continue to incite the crowd over the weekend until Lucy’s return on Monday. Wilson had connections to the local KKK organization, resulting in an increasingly hostile, violent tone to the Saturday rally and Monday mob. Crosses were burned on and near campus that weekend as pressure mounted. On Monday, Feb 6, 1956 Lucy would arrive to her class at Smith Hall, only to be greeted by a rapidly growing mob. She would then be driven by Sarah Healy, the Dean of Women at the time, across campus to Graves.

Student protestors, with some community KKK members, protesting Lucy's enrollment on the Student Union steps on Saturday Feb 4, 1956.

#1030-1051 Graves-McLure Tunnel: Graves Hall contained Lucy’s second class of the day, on children’s literature. Due to the rapidly growing mob forming outside, the class was dismissed. Lucy remained trapped in the room, along with her instructor, Dean Sarah Healy, and the president's assistant Jeff Bennett. At some point during the three hours seige, she was transported to McLure Library via a semi-underground tunnel (which is still operational). Near midday, Mr. Guin, Lucy’s family friend and ride home, appeared on a nearby sidewalk, distracting the hostile crowd. Bennett and Healey hustled Lucy out of the library to a police car waiting at the back of the building. She was instructed to lie face-down in the back seat as the car sped to the West End of Tuscaloosa, a segregated Black neighborhood. She was dropped off at the Alabama Citizen offices, the city's Black newspaper, and was able to clean up from her ordeal at Howard & Linton's barbershop next door (still in operation). Eventually five cars of Black citizens escorted Lucy to her home in Bessemer. She would not return to campus as a student for over four decades.

Tuscaloosa News coverage of the Monday mob.

#7158 President’s Mansion: Before making their procession down University Blvd, the mob that had gathered on the steps of Reese-Phifer made its way to the President’s Mansion. There, they threw tomatoes, rotten eggs, and, by some reports, firecrackers at the porch. The goal was thought to be to bring out President Carmichael. This effort would be in vain, as President Carmichael had left for the weekend to go to a conference in New Orleans. Instead, his wife spoke to the crowd from her balcony, and delivered the news that her husband was out of town, and there was nothing to be done. Carmichael was a highly regarded "native son" of Alabama with a prestigious academic resume. He was underprepared, to say the least, for the hostilities that broke out on campus in 1956. He resigned from the presidency in fall 1957 but had a building in the education college named after him some years later. Carmichael Hall today is the building in which Lucy and Pollie Anne Myers registered for classes on that fateful winter weekend.

Upper left: Autherine in class during her three-day enrollment; Upper right and lower images are from the weekend protests at the mansion and on University Blvd.
Part II: PUblic memory at ua

Part II: Public Memory at UA

Public memory is the academic study of how historical events are converted into symbolic and narrative form through things like statues, memorials, museums, and even campus tours. Now that you know more about the facts of Autherine Lucy's experience on UA's campus, we'll focus a bit more on how her story (and others) is told through space, place, and memory "texts".

#7059 Hood-Malone Plaza and Lucy Clock tower: Foster Auditorium into disuse and disrepair as the student body grew, and was mentioned for demolition in the 1990s. This led to a massive funding campaign to restore the building, providing an opportunity for UA to further commemorate the events of its desegregation. Prior to the plaza a small plaque, installed in 2004, noted that Pres. John F. Kennedy delivered a national address the night of Wallace's failed "stand" and that this speech became the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In the larger renovation project, due in large part to advocacy from UA's Black Faculty and Staff Association (itself a product of desegregation activism), the plaza was dedicated in November 2010to better honor students Hood and Malone. The clocktower was named for Autherine Lucy and her story is briefly told there. However, Lucy has no real connection to the plaza, likely never even having stepped foot there during her short 1956 enrollment. In addition, the violent resistance that she encountered is described as "significant unrest" on her marker. During her speech at the 2010 dedication, student Coresa Nancy Hogan (’12) thanked Autherine Lucy for breaking the barrier and having a scholarship in her name that helped Hogan herself attend UA.

UA Quad - Various Sites: Public memory is quite robust on UA's campus. There are 19 state historical markers on our campus - they mark Civil War actions, Greek houses, early buildings in college history, and more. Until 2017 not one marker referred to UA's 20th-Century segregation and desegregation process. Attention to these details and patterns helps us understand how a place (a quad or campus) tells a particular version of a historical narrative.

Prominent markers on UA’s campus include: the memorial in front of Gorgas Library that was donated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, listing UA students who defended the campus in April 1965 before the overall Confederate surrender; the Round House whose marker is the only place that the word "slave" appears on our public memory texts and is now associated with the elite honor society called The Jasons; signs around Denny Chimes and Gorgas House that tell the story of the university's founding; signs at Marr's Spring where water "was carried" up to an all-white all-male student body by unnamed persons; and of course the President's Mansion whose lore includes Mrs. Garland saving the structure from Union troops (sometimes called "invaders" by campus tour guides) and whose legacy extends to the outbuildings that houses enslaved persons or their labor in the pre-war era. Of all our memory sites, the Mound is perhaps the most familiar. The Mound stands in memorial to the aftermath of Union troops led by Col. Croxton raiding campus in April 1865. The mound itself is made of the rubble of Franklin Hall; no one was hurt or killed in its destruction, and UA was a declared military college at the time. The sign at The Mound was sponsored/funded by a traditionally white sorority (Phi Mu), and today it is a semi-sacred high-status place on our quad. On most days it has signs instructing passersby to "Do Not Play on the Mound,"; on gameday segments of the Million Dollar Band warm up here; on Honors Day the most prestigious students and faculty awards are conferred here.

The Mound

#1022 Ferguson Center: A portrait of Lucy hangs in a building named after one of her greatest sources of opposition: Hill Ferguson, chairman on the Board of Trustees during Lucy’s crisis. Ferguson led the four year legal battle to resist Lucy and Myers' enrollment, hiring private investigators, KKK-associated lawyers, and debating overtly illegal resistance to the U. S. Supreme Court decisions mandating the end of legal segregation in education. Even after leaving the board, Ferguson would continue to fight for segregation and racial separation at UA.

#1030 Autherine Lucy Foster Historical Marker: In September of 2017 a state historical marker was installed in front of Graves Hall recognizing Lucy. Dr. Meredith M. Bagley (creator of this tour/guide) played a part in bringing this sign to campus, as did many student activists, the Black Faculty Staff Association, SGA leaders, and more. The sign foregrounds her experience more directly than the clocktower, naming the UA Board of Trustees as the entity that suspended and eventually expelled Lucy to quell the violence. It credits her for litigation that demonstrated, with finality, that the Brown v Board decision applied to colleges and universities. It labels the mob violence that occurs as "tumultuous demonstrations" - slightly more accurate accountable language. Autherine spoke at the dedication, to 100 seated guests and nearly 500 onlookers, remarking on the difference of the assembled crowd from her experience in 1956. She has never spoken negatively about her 1956 experience and she sent both her daughters to UA for part of all of their degrees. The most she has admitted on record is that her solo, traumatic, disturbing experience placed a great burden on her, asking her to stand for so many, and for such powerful ideals. She is less of a forgotten hero now - and UA is undoubtedly always in her debt.

A state historical marker honoring Autherine Lucy (Foster) was dedicated in September, 2017

Activism in Tuscaloosa after 1963: Rev. T Y Rogers was a student of Dr. King, and assisted at Dexter Street in the 1950s after a bus boycott. Rogers returned from divinity school when Dr. King assigned him to Tuscaloosa’s First African Baptist church in August of 1963. Rogers led city activism from 1963-65 to integrate the courthouse, grocery stores, and buses. Rogers was ultimately killed in 1966 in a suspicious car accident. Linton’s barbershop was and remains a valuable resource for civil rights. Autherine Lucy stopped there on her flight from the University to have the eggs that were thrown at her removed from her hair. First African Baptist celebrated its 150th anniversary as church in the fall of 2016.

Campus Map - Building Numbers correspond to the official UA map posted here.

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