Roommates, Autherine Lucy Foster’s most recent trip to the University of Alabama was much better than her last. She made history 63 years ago as the first American American student to enroll in the university, but things didn’t quite go as planned.
According to CNN, Autherine spent just three days on campus before being removed because of death threats and riots. Now, she is being presented with an honorary doctorate from the school.
Autherine’s journey with education was not an easy one, as she applied for colleges during the civil rights era. In 1952, she was accepted to what was then Miles College with the hope of earning an English degree. Unfortunately, her acceptance was rescinded because she wasn’t white.
She was eventually accepted again in 1956 after a federal court go involved. But, she was only able to attend class for three days before riots and threats against her life forced the school to pull her off campus.
Despite enduring some traumatic times, Autherine says she was crying tears of joy to know that so much progress has been made at her alma mater.
“I wasn’t crying, but tears was 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,” she said. “The difference is the crowds are here. I see laughing faces instead of people frowning and displeased with me being here.”
The University has also decided to honor Autherine with a pair of scholarships named after her, including a history marker with her story on campus, and naming the “Autherine Lucy Clock Tower” on campus.
University present, Stuart R. Bell, spoke to Autherine’s accomplishments and the legacy she has left with the school.
“Her tenacious spirit, gracious heart for helping others and unfailing belief in the values of education and human rights positions Mrs. Foster as a meaningful example of what one can achieve in the face of adversity.”