As Black History Month is celebrated and observed, we turn our focus to an important milestone in the history of UTC: desegregating the campus. Integration was slow at higher education institutions across the South, and there was some resistance as schools integrated African-American students into their student bodies. In the mid-1960s, when our university was not yet a part of the UT system, the process of desegregation began.
Some African-Americans had attempted to enroll at the university on its opening day in 1886, and had good reason to believe they’d be welcome, as the school was partially sponsored by the Freedmen’s Aid Society. They were not admitted, however, and the unofficial policy of declining African-Americans would last for over seventy-five years. In the early 1960s, the University of Chattanooga, then led by President Leroy Martin, announced that the school would integrate-a move that was received positively by most, including the university newspaper, The Echo. The university first admitted a graduate student, Horace Traylor in the mid 1960s and, over the next few years, African-American under-graduates were also admitted.
The integration process at UTC will be documented in a special event next Tuesday night, February 28 at 7pm in the University Center Auditorium. At this event, a documentary film, “Reaching the Light: The Story of Desegregation of the University of Chattanooga” will premier and the experiences of the first African-American students at the university will finally be told. More information, about the premier can be found here: Documentary Premier.
Post written by Steve Cox and Chapel Cowden.