By: Chauncey Alcorn, The Grio
The name of Autherine Lucy Foster, the first Black student at the University of Alabama, will no longer be honored alongside that of a former Ku Klux Klan leader after the school’s trustees voted Friday to remove his name from a campus building.
The vote came a week after university leaders decided to jointly rename the building, Graves Hall, as Lucy-Graves Hall. The academic building was once named after two-term Gov. Bibb Graves, who also was Grand Cyclops of the KKK before leaving the group in the late 1920s.
It will now be known simply as Autherine Lucy Hall, the Washington Post reported. Foster first enrolled at the university in 1956.
On Feb. 3, the university’s trustees voted to change the building’s name to Lucy-Graves Hall to pay homage to Foster. Retired judge and former University of Alabama trustee John England Jr. recently told the New York Times that the building’s previous paired name was meant “to generate educational moments and help us learn from our complex and rich history.”
“Well, somehow or another, the honoring of Autherine Lucy Foster sort of took the background,” England said. “That’s not what we wanted.”
The trustees revisited the issue on Friday deciding to only include Foster’s name.
The school said the decision was made “in honor of Dr. Autherine Lucy Foster’s leadership and to recognize her life as a dedicated educator,” according to a statement reported by New York Times.
Foster was the first Black American to attend a white school or university in Alabama, according to the home of the Crimson Tide. She previously applied to attend in 1952, but was rejected because she wasn’t white, according to the school.
A federal judge eventually overturned that decision prior to Foster being admitted to Alabama in 1956. She was only on campus three days that year before an angry white mob forced her to flee home with a police escort, according to Biography. She hid in an underground room at Graves Hall to avoid an angry and racially motivated mob, during her first few days at the University.
University administrators suspended Foster the same night and later expelled her for making up “rumors” that the school’s leaders were responsible for the mob that chased her off campus.
Foster’s expulsion was revoked in 1988. She enrolled at the school, along with her daughter, Grazia, once more a year later and earned a master’s degree in education in 1991, according to the university.
In 2019, she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Alabama for her contributions to education and integration in the state.
“I am so grateful to all who think that this naming opportunity has the potential to motivate and encourage others to embrace the importance of education, and to have the courage to commit to things that seek to make a difference in the lives of others,” Foster said in a statement.