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.
#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.