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Autherine Lucy Foster

M.A., The University of Alabama, 1991. Elementary Education. 

B.A., Miles College, 1952. English.

Born in Shiloh, AL, Autherine Lucy Foster, a notable figure of the Civil Rights Movement, was the first African-American student to attend The University of Alabama in 1956. 

Although she was accepted in 1952, her admittance was rescinded when it was discovered she was not white. Backed by the NAACP under the direction of executive director Roy Wilkins and then lawyer, and later Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall who were testing Brown v. Board of Education, she charged UA with racial discrimination in a court case that took almost three years to resolve. On June 29, 1955, the NAACP secured a court order preventing the University from rejecting her admission application. 

On February 1, 1956, Lucy entered the office of the registrar for the College of Education, and M.L. Roberts, Jr., registered her as a student in the College. On February 3rd, Lucy attended her first class as a graduate student in library science, becoming the first African American ever admitted to a white public school or university in Alabama. Campus riots broke out three days later, and the university removed Lucy for her own safety. 

In the spring of 1956, she moved to Texas and married the Reverand Hugh Foster. Although she had a certificate to teach English and French in secondary schools, Foster had difficulty initially finding a job because of the controversy surrounding her. But, she renewed her teaching certificate and over the years taught school while her husband preached in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. All the while, she said, she “kept membership in the NAACP, went to some meetings, spoke from time to time.” 

The Fosters moved back to Birmingham, Alabama, in 1984 where Mrs. Foster obtained a position in the Birmingham school system as a high school English and World History teacher at Ensley Magnet High School. She retired from this position in 1998. 

Mrs. Foster’s expulsion from The University of Alabama was officially annulled in 1988. In 1989, she again enrolled at the University joining her daughter, Grazia, who was also a student at the Capstone. Mrs. Foster earned a Master of Arts in elementary education in December of 1991 and participated in the graduation ceremonies the following May along with Grazia, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in corporate finance. 

The University named an endowed fellowship in her honor that year and unveiled a portrait of her in the student union. The inscription reads, “Her initiative and courage won the right for students of all races to attend the University. She is a sister of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority.” 

The University dedicated the Autherine Lucy Clock Tower in 2010, honoring her as one of three individuals who pioneered desegregation at The University of Alabama.