The first Black student to enroll and attend the University of Alabama has been awarded an honorary doctorate from the school after being expelled over 60 years later during the school’s commencement ceremony.
According to University of Alabama press release, Autherine Lucy Foster, 89, who the school considers its “first civil rights trailblazer” was expelled from the university in 1952 after three days due to riots on campus protesting her enrollment.
Foster acceptance was unfortunately rescinded from the school because she was Black, but she eventually returned the school in 1956 after court order reversed the decision. The Shiloh, Ala. became the first African-American ever to attend a white school or university in the state.
Foster returned to the school in 1988 with her daughter, Grazia, after her expulsion was officially annulled, and the two graduated together with Foster earning a master’s degree in elementary education in 1991, according to NBC News.
In recognition of Foster’s courageous efforts and role in desegregation, the university honored her with a pair of scholarships and two campus landmarks to honor her. She is also recognized as a UA legend.
“I love The University of Alabama, and it is an honor to be recognized in this way,” said Foster in reference to receiving her honorary doctoral degree. “I am thankful for opportunities such as this, which allow us to talk about the past while looking to the future.”
Upon her return on campus, Foster spoke of the difference between the past and now.
“The difference is that the crowds are here, but I see laughing faces instead of people frowning and displeased at me being here,” she told WBRC.
UA President, Stuart R. Bell said it was “truly a privilege” to recognize Foster with the honorary degree.
“Her tenacious spirit, gracious heart for helping others and unfailing belief in the value of education and human rights positions Mrs. Foster as a meaningful example of what one can achieve in the face of adversity.”