This Day in Black History: Feb. 3, 1956

Autherine Lucy becomes first African-American student to enroll in classes at the University of Alabama.

Posted: 02/03/2012 07:00 AM EST

After a long legal battle that included a Supreme Court ruling on her behalf, Autherine Lucy became the first African-American to enroll at the University of Alabama. However, soon after her arrival, a mob of angry segregationists would cause uproar over her admittance, and the school would suspend Lucy on grounds that it could not provide a safe environment for her. Lucy would work with civil lawyers, including Thurgood Marshall, to mount a lawsuit against the university, but would be permanently expelled for allegedly slandering the school’s reputation in her court filing. The university finally overturned her expulsion in 1980, and she went on to earn a masters there in 1992. The school later named an endowed scholarship in her honor and displayed a portrait of her in the student union.

Also, on this day in 1870, Congress ratified the 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The measure gave African-American men the right to vote by declaring that the "right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." However, discrimination through the use of poll taxes, literacy tests and other restrictions would continue to disenfranchise African-American voters for almost a century.     

 

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