And in the middle of all those twos is a ONE. And today that ONE (First, if you will) is Autherine Juanita Lucy, the FIRST Black student to attend the University of Alabama (in 1956. That is 66 years ago for those who like to talk about how racism is So! Long! Ago!*). In 1952, she and Polly Myers, a civil rights activist with the NAACP) applied to University of Alabama because Lucy wanted to get a second undergrad degree, not for political reasons but to get the best possible education in the state and separate was definitely not equal. Women were accepted, but their admittance was taken back when they found out that they were not white. Lucy and Myers charged the University with racial discrimination in a court case that took almost three years to resolve. On June 29, 1955, the NAACP secured a court order preventing the University from rejecting the admission applications of Lucy and Myers (who had married and was then known as Pollie Myers Hudson) based upon their race. Lucy was finally admitted to the University but it rejected Hudson on the grounds that a child she had conceived before marriage made her an unsuitable student. Even though Lucy was officially admitted, she was still barred from all dormitories and dining halls. Days later, the court amended the order to apply to all other African-American students seeking admission.

At least two sources have said that the board hoped that without Hudson, the more outgoing and assured of the pair and whose idea it originally was to enroll at Alabama, Lucy’s own acceptance would mean little or nothing to her, and she would voluntarily decide not to attend. But Hudson and others strongly encouraged her, and on February 3, 1956, Lucy enrolled as a graduate student in library science, becoming the first African American ever admitted to a white public school or university in the state. Lucy attended her first class on Friday, February 3, 1956. On Monday, February 6, 1956, white people LOST. THEIR. SHIT. Riots broke out on the campus and a mob of more than a thousand men pelted the car in which the Dean of Women drove Lucy between classes. Threats were made against her life and the University president’s home was stoned. The police were called to secure her attendance. These riots at the University were what was, to date, the most violent, post-Brown, anti-integration demonstration. After the riots, the University suspended Lucy from school because her own safety was a concern and also they didn’t want her there.

Lucy was known and described as “the architect of desegregating Alabama’s education systems.” Thurgood Marshall helped win the 1954 landmark Supreme Court desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education. The Brown decision said that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional (illegal). Marshall had a great amount of confidence that if the Supreme Court decided something, then the rest of the country would follow its decision. (HA. HAHA. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. *cough*) Attorneys for Lucy and the NAACP helped build a lawsuit against the University because they believed the school helped the white mob by not having protection for her and prevented Lucy from attending class. A series of legal proceedings lasted from 1953 until 1955.

While Lucy felt defeated from being expelled and losing the court case, Thurgood Marshall, who would become the first African-American Supreme Court Justice in 1967, thought differently. In a letter to Lucy, he said, “Whatever happens in the future, remember for all concerned, that your contribution has been made toward equal justice for all Americans and that you have done everything in your power to bring this about.”

ANYWAY. In 1988, her expulsion was officially annulled by the University and she enrolled in the grad program and received an MA degree in 1992. The University named an endowed fellowship in her honor and unveiled a portrait of her in the student union. The inscription reads “Her initiative and courage won the right for students of all races to attend the University. She is a sister of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority.” [Hey Nisha and Auntie’s baby!] THEN, in 2010, the Autherine Lucy Clock Tower was dedicated in a new space honoring her, Vivian Malone, and James Hood (the Malone-Hood Plaza)—three individuals who pioneered desegregation at the University of Alabama. The Plaza is located beside Foster Auditorium, where, in 1963 – which is AFTER 1956, Alabama Governor George Wallace unsuccessfully attempted to bar Malone and Hood from registering at the University. Additionally, on September 15, 2017, a special marker was erected in her honor near Graves Hall (home of the College of Education) on the UA campus. Lucy returned to speak at the ceremony and compared the crowd that welcomed her with the hatred she had encountered the first time she entered the university. Almost feels like all that hollering Alabama and states like it did about “Heritage not Hate” actually meant their “Heritage IS Hate”,  but I, a California girl am just speculating because California likes their racism to look like concern as to why random black person who is minding their black  ass business is somewhere they don’t want to see black people.

Oh that’s right! Back to University of Alabama and all this sucking up to their first Black student because well, University of Alabama is in Alabama. In May 2019, Lucy attended the University of Alabama’s spring graduation, where the school presented her with an honorary doctorate.

AND MY FAVORITE THING: In 2022, the university added Lucy’s name to what was formerly Bibb Graves Hall, now known as Lucy-Graves Hall. Why is this my favorite thing? Because Bibb Graves was a Ku Klux Klan member and ALABAMA THOUGHT LEMME JUST ADD THIS BLACK WOMAN’S NAME TO THIS KKK MEMBER’S BUILDING AND THAT WON’T BE WEIRD AT ALL.

Surprisingly, the announcement was met with backlash! Students and alumni and faculty joined together to ask WHAT THE F*CK IS WRONG WITH Y’ALL?!

ANYWAY. On February 11th. Of 2022, they voted to reverse the decision and removed Graves name. “Well, somehow the honoring of Autherine Lucy Foster sort of took the background to us honoring white supremacy and that’s not what we wanted,” trustee John England Jr. told the university’s student paper, The Crimson White. “We’ve heard enough from people whose opinion matters to us — students, faculty, staff — that we can do that in a better way than what we’ve done.”

See? Look at me. Givin’ y’all a first and a story where an institution tried real hard to hold on to it’s white supremacy and the people of said institution pried it from them! This all coulda been avoided if they had just done the right thing, but here we are.

*I know that NOBODY who gets these e-mails would EVER say anything like “this kinda racism was SO LONG AGO” ‘cause I raised y’all better than that. But in case you decide to send this out into the ether, please let ‘em know! My mama is older than 66 years old which, I know, SEEMS impossible considering that her oldest grandbaby is 30-something and I ALSO am only 30-something which should realistically make her 40-something and yet here we are. Sometimes the math don’t math! Lean into it!