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Tuscaloosa Area Virtual Museum

Civil Rights Activities

Civil Rights Activities at the University of Alabama

Autherine Lucy was the first African-American to be admitted to the University of Alabama.  On Wednesday, February 1, 1956, she enrolled and on Friday, February 3, 1956, she attended her first class.  These actions were not well received by the student body, the community, or state authorities.  Before her enrollment, crosses had been burned on the campus and following her arrival mobs gathered on campus to protest her presence.  On Monday, February 6, Lucy arrived on campus for class only to be met by hundreds of protestors.  The protestors turned violent, pelting Lucy and her escorts with eggs and pebbles.  With some luck, she was able to safely leave the campus.  With an armed escort of local African-American men, she was driven to Birmingham.  At the same time, the University’s Board of Trustees voted to “exclude Autherine Lucy until further notice from attending the University of Alabama.”  These actions are what prompted the editorial in the Tuscaloosa News by Buford Boone that is shown in the first entry in the Civil Rights Activities section of the exhibit.

The second attempt to integrate the University of Alabama was June 11, 1963, when Vivian Malone and James Hood arrived to be registered.  This time members of the community, the university, the federal government, and the state government engaged in planning beforehand, hoping to ensure a non-violent outcome.  Governor George Wallace used this occasion to speak out against federal intervention in state matters, but after stating his case, stepped aside to allow the registration to take place.  The “stand in the schoolhouse door” took place at the door to Foster Auditorium.  These events are shown in the first 12 entries.

Civil Rights Activities in Tuscaloosa

In March 1964 the Reverend T.Y. Rogers was ordained as the pastor of Tuscaloosa’s First African Baptist Church upon the recommendation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Rogers became the leader of the civil rights movement in Tuscaloosa along with the already established Tuscaloosa Citizens for Action Committee.  At a meeting on April 20, 1964, plans were made for a march on the courthouse to fight the city’s use of discriminatory signage.  Marches and boycotts were held throughout the spring months.  The lack of support of the white business community and the threatening rhetoric of the Klu Klux Klan had made it difficult for the police to keep the peace.  On June 9, 1964, as the African Americans congregated at First African Baptist Church for another downtown march, Rogers and other ministers were arrested.  The group refused to disperse and violence erupted into what is referred to as Bloody Tuesday.  Many were arrested and injured.  Tuscaloosans were shocked that such violence had come to their city. After that time, African American men organized to provide their own protection, as reliance on the police had proved ineffectual. These events are shown in the last 5 entries.

Additional information may be found in “Opening the Doors:  The Desegration of the University of Alabama and the Fight for Civil Rights in Tuscaloosa” by B.J. Hollars, University of Alabama Press, 2013.

For more information about the events shown click on the image.