Women of the Schoolhouse
Three of the first four African American students to enroll in The University of Alabama were female: Autherine Lucy (Foster) in 1956, Vivian Malone (Jones) in 1963 , and two women in the fall of 1964. (Our class searched unsuccessfully for the names of the two women who enrolled in the fall of 1964 -- but we're still looking.) Finally, if we include Pollie Anne Myers -- the young Black woman who convinced her friend Autherine Lucy to apply to the university, only to be turned away at the eleventh hour for a pregnancy outside of marriage -- we would have had four women out of the first five black students!
We don't say that enough, nor tell their stories with sufficient attention to the complicated intersections of race and gender (among other pieces of our identity). Our class addressed this aspect of our 50th Anniversary celebration in several ways:
Fall 2013 Class Project: "What Would Lucy Say"
In this creative, collaborative class project, each student in the fall 2013 course was asked to assume the identity of a key player in the 1956 integration of the university. Students wrote a short contextual profile of their assumed character, based on our course text The Schoolhouse Door (Clark, 1993), then created a short speech as if that person spoke out during the Lucy crisis.
The assignment was challenging, posing ethical challenges to students who chose to adopt the view of white segregationists, as well as representational challenges for students who adopted a view from a person not of their own race. As a class, the students knocked this difficult assignment out of the park. In the audio clip below, their speeches and voices are performed as one, linking across the generations the actions of then and now, culminating with rousing calls from our "Lucy's" to keep the arc of history bending toward justice.
"What Would Lucy Say" Speech Performance Project - Fall 2013
Student Projects and Overviews
The Role of Allies
White female allies also have a part in the story of UA's desegregation -- from Dean of Women Sarah Healy (featured above, third from the left) offering her personal vehicle to shuttle Lucy between classes amid angry crowds to Prof. Jean Lyda, in whose class Lucy was trapped for two hours while rock-throwing mobs chanted below for her ouster - or more. Nine years later, when Vivian Malone entered Burke Hall to rest and eat while the Wallace "stand" was addressed, several white female students joined her in a show of support.