Autherine Lucy Foster: University of Alabama's first black student receives honorary doctorate

Credit: Zach Riggins

Credit: Zach Riggins

Decades after being removed from the campus of the University of Alabama, Autherine Lucy Foster has received an honorary doctoral degree from the school.

Now 89, Lucy Foster, who is African American, applied to UA in 1952, but her acceptance was rescinded because she was not white. Even though a federal court reversed the decision in 1956, Lucy Foster was removed from campus after three days because of threats to her life and riots.

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But in those three days, Lucy Foster made history as the first African American to enroll and attend the university.

The University of Alabama announced the honor May 2. She was presented with the Doctor of humane letters degree at Alabama's spring commencement ceremony Friday in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

"It's truly a privilege to award Mrs. Foster with an honorary degree from the University of Alabama," UA President Stuart R. Bell said in a statement. "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."

The honorary degree is the latest in a list of recognition Lucy Foster has received for desegregating UA. She has scholarships named in her honor, two campus landmarks named for her -- a historic marker and the Autherine Lucy Clock Tower -- is an inductee in the UA Student Life Hall of Fame and is listed as a UA Legend.

"I love the University of Alabama, and it is an honor to be recognized in this way," Lucy Foster said in a statement. "I am thankful for opportunities such as this, which allow us to talk about the past while looking to the future."

Lucy Foster's dismissal from the campus in 1956 was annulled in 1988, allowing her to return to campus and reenroll at the university with her daughter, Grazia Foster. They graduated together in 1992 -- Lucy Foster with a master's degree in elementary education and her daughter with a bachelor's degree in corporate finance.

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