Autherine Lucy was the first African-American student to enroll at The University of Alabama in 1956. The University has just announced that a campus building will be renamed in her honor, and the news was met with mixed reactions. Read on for more details.
Autherine Lucy’s Legacy
Autherine Lucy is a well-known figure in The University of Alabama’s history. She was the first African-American student to enroll back in 1956. Her enrollment was met with skepticism, protests and violence.
According to Women’s History, in her three days as a student, her few walks on campus were quite dangerous, including incidents of being taunted, chased and having to barricade herself for safety on campus. Further, she was not allowed to live on campus or eat in the dining halls.
On her third day at The University, she was escorted off campus in a police car after being chased by an angry mob, and subsequently suspended, then expelled. Fast forward to 1988, when Lucy received a letter from the University that she was no longer expelled, and would be welcomed back to continue her education.
She returned to The Capstone in 1989, and graduated the same year as her daughter, Grazia.
UA students might have noticed Lucy’s presence across campus, including in displayed photos and a namesake scholarship. But, the University recently announced they will be renaming a building in her honor, too.
According to The Crimson White, Graves Hall (a building in The School of Education on the southwest corner of campus) has been renamed to Lucy-Graves Hall. If you know anything about Graves, you’ll know why some folks have found this to be a very interesting choice…
Who is Graves?
Bibb Graves was the first Alabama governor to serve two four-year terms, from 1927-1931 and 1935-1939. He is known for making advancements in education during his time in office. According to The Crimson White, this included, “a doubling of education appropriations in his first term, the creation of the Division of Negro Education within Alabama’s Department of Education, the expansion of now-Alabama State University from a two-year to four-year institution and the break up of a longstanding prison labor practice that modeled slavery.”
While his accomplishments did serve Alabama, Mr. Graves was also a Grand Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan. He renounced his Klan membership in 1928 (during his second year as Alabama governor), but the decision to keep the name of a KKK leader on the building alongside Lucy’s has led to a nationwide response.
The change has captured national attention as UA students, alumni and more weigh in on the building’s new name.
This is embarrassing. Please remove Graves name from the building— Uxas (@LeBeauJauneRoi) February 4, 2022
It’s true Bibb Graves increased overall educational spending, and Black students benefitted to some extent. It’s also true that the disparities remained insane: in Lowndes County in 1930, the county spent nearly $100 per white student and less than $10 per Black student. https://t.co/9RJwJKuyyS— Brian Lyman (@lyman_brian) February 4, 2022
Because she hid in a tunnel as students, the Klan, and others called for her murder for daring to enroll 66 years ago today.— Dr. Hilary Green (@HilaryGreen77) February 4, 2022
Because she has shown more dignity & grace than UA admin can fathom
Because she is now sharing a building name with a known Grand Dragon of the KKK. pic.twitter.com/otjEI3v2JE
According to The Crimson White, Graves’ name has been removed from many Alabama college campuses, including Troy University and Alabama State University. His presence remains at Auburn University, the University of Montevallo and the University of North Alabama.
What do you think about the building’s new name? We want to hear from you @TheBamaBuzz.