Autherine Lucy was excited about being accepted to the University of Alabama’s graduate program in Library Science. However, she knew that her road to becoming a librarian was not going to be easy. There was one major detail the university did not know at first about Lucy: she was African-American.
After school officials realized Lucy was black, the university denied her enrollment. The denial sparked a three-year legal battle led by the NAACP. The battle appeared to end favorably for her in 1955 when the United States Supreme Court ordered the University of Alabama to accept Lucy, making her the university’s first African-American student.
On February 3, 1956, Lucy arrived at the school registered and tried to attend her classes. As she walked, she was met by thousands of white students who spat racial slurs, threw eggs, and threatened her. When that was not enough, the white mob cornered Lucy into a dormitory until the police came to her rescue.
The same evening, university officials met and voted to suspend Lucy. The officials felt her presence was a safety concern for the school. Lucy’s legal team challenged the suspension and accused the university of enabling the rioters in order to orchestrate having her removed from the school in the first place. However, despite a court order to reinstate Lucy, university trustees voted to expel her for her accusations of conspiracy, ending Lucy’s efforts to desegregate the university.