TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Fifty years after the first two African-American students enrolled at The University of Alabama following then Gov. George Wallace’s unsuccessful “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door,” UA will commemorate that historic day and celebrate 50 years of progress with two public events – a program featuring speakers and musical performances on June 11 and an interfaith prayer breakfast on June 7.
“This is an opportunity to reflect on our history, celebrate our progress and look ahead to the next 50 years of change on our campus,” said UA President Judy Bonner.
On Tuesday, June 11, UA will host “Through the Doors: Courage. Change. Progress.” The 6 p.m. event at UA’s Foster Auditorium is designed to recognize and honor the courage and dedication of Vivian Malone and James Hood, the two African-American students who enrolled at UA on June 11, 1963. It will include presentations by current UA students and alumni as well as musical performances.
The program will also recognize UA’s ongoing commitment to change over the past 50 years and its commitment to continued progress in the future.
Speakers will include UA student Tyler Merriweather, a communication studies major and Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship recipient from Tuscaloosa; UA alumna Zaneta Lowe, a 1997 graduate who currently serves as chief consumer investigator for WREG, the CBS affiliate in Memphis, Tenn.; UA alumnus Andre Taylor, a 1973 graduate who retired as vice president-communications at Alabama Gas Corp. and served as the first African-American president of UA’s National Alumni Association; and UA Trustee John England, a 1974 graduate of the UA School of Law, who currently serves as a circuit judge for the Sixth Judicial Circuit in Tuscaloosa.
Musicians will include UA alumnus Dr. Everett McCorvey, a three-time UA graduate and holder of the Lexington Opera Society Endowed Chair in Opera Studies at the University of Kentucky; UA student Joshua Williams, a horn performance major from Tuscaloosa; Dr. Noel Engebretson, a professor of piano at UA since 1991; and Dr. Tedrin Blair Lindsay of the University of Kentucky.
The program will begin with a 5:30 p.m. reception in the Malone-Hood Plaza outside Foster Auditorium and will conclude by 7 p.m. Individuals attending the program may park in any legal parking space.
The public is also invited to an interfaith prayer breakfast at 7:30 a.m., Friday, June 7 in Sellers Auditorium of UA’s Bryant Conference Center. The program will celebrate the role of the faith community in the civil rights movement. While the breakfast is free, those planning to attend are asked to register at http://uaferguson.tix.com/Event.asp?Event=576940 by June 3.
Rev. Christopher Spencer, director of community development in UA’s Center for Community Based Partnerships, will serve as master of ceremonies.
Following commendations to Canterbury Episcopal Chapel and First African Baptist Church for their helpful roles in the events of 1963, the program will include performances by UA’s Afro-American Gospel Choir and a brief oral history of the local civil rights movement, along with prayers and music.
Participants will include Dr. Ken Dunivant, senior pastor, First United Methodist Church of Tuscaloosa; Rev. Thomas W. Linton, a civil rights pioneer and pastor of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ; Rev. Tyshawn Gardner, pastor, Plum Grove Baptist Church; Rev. Kelvin Croom, pastor, College Hill Baptist Church; Father Gerald Holloway, pastor, St. Francis of Assisi University Parish; Lisa Besnoy, program director at Bama Hillel; and Brother Arzo X, coordinator for Muhammad Study Group of Tuscaloosa.
Throughout 2013, UA has hosted a series of activities and events designed to honor the desegregation of the University, and other events are scheduled in coming months.
A special website, www.throughthedoors.ua.edu, launched in February, is devoted to the anniversary. It also serves as a source of historical information beginning with Autherine Lucy’s attempt to enroll at UA as the first African-American student in 1956.
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.