Autherine Lucy Foster, the first Black student at the University of Alabama, has finally been awarded an honorary doctorate degree from the university. Now 89-years old, Foster was delighted by the recognition decades after she was rejected by the university for being Black.
In 1952, Foster applied to the all-white university but her acceptance was overturned because she was Black. After a lengthy legal battle, she enrolled again in 1956. She was able to attend classes until she was expelled three days after due to persistent riots and death threats against her.
After that, African-American students were only allowed to enter the campus in 1963, following the infamous stand in the school house door where Gov. George Wallace pledged “segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.”
Foster finally earned her master’s degree in education from the university in 1991, more than 35 years after attending her first class. She graduated with her daughter the following year.
During UA’s graduation ceremonies on May 3, Foster returned to the campus to receive her Doctor of Humane Letters degree. She was welcomed with applause and a standing ovation from the crowd, a lot different from the situation about 60 years ago.
“I wasn’t crying, but tears was just rolling down my eyes because it’s just so different and so unique for me to be able to come back to such a university as this,” Foster told WBRC.
Moreover, Foster has also been honored by the university with a clock tower at Malone Hood Plaza named after her and a historic marker in front of Graves Hall in 2017. Despite all that, Foster remains humble.
“I feel elated. Somewhat embarrassed because I don’t feel exactly worthy of what I’m getting. But I’m going to thank them and act as if I can.”