The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997

Reluctance versus Reality:
The Desegregation Of North Texas State College,
1954-1956
RONALD E. MARCELLO*
ON FEBRUARY 3, 1956, MISS AUTHERINE LUCY AND MRS. IRMA
Sephas enrolled at the University of Alabama and North Texas
State College respectively. They were the first African American under-
graduates to attend those institutions. Lucy's career at Alabama was
short-lived. Accompanied by a police officer who was assigned to protect
her, she sat in a row of seats occupied by no other students, and universi-
ty officials refused to allow her to live in the college dormitories or eat at
its dining facilities. Some campus students and outsiders verbally abused
her, while others threatened her with physical harm. The president of
the university, Oliver Cromwell Carmichael, with the backing of the
board of trustees and Governor James E. Folsom, who opposed desegre-
gation, encouraged turmoil within the student body, faculty, and the
campus in general by standing aside as segregationists invaded the
grounds to demonstrate and riot. His actions emboldened the mob to
defy the federal courts and consequently prevented an orderly adjust-
ment to desegregation. After Lucy had attended classes for just three
days, the board suspended her "until further notice" and "for her safe-
ty," alleging that she had publicly charged the board with conspiring
with the mob.'
On the same day Lucy was having problems in Tuscaloosa, the first
African American undergraduate to attend North Texas State College, Irma
E. L. Sephas, enrolled with no difficulty. A resident of Fort Worth, Sephas
planned to commute between her home and the campus in Denton and
* Ronald E. Marcello holds the Ph.D. from Duke University. He is currently professor of histo-
ry and director of the Oral History Program at the University of North Texas.
E. Culpepper Clark, The Schoolhouse Door. Segregation's Last Stand at the University of Alabama
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 53-102; Richard Bardolph, The Civil Rights Record:
Black Americans and the Law, I849-1970 (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1970), 474-475;
Lewis Jones, "Two Years of Desegregation in Alabama," Journal of Negro Education, XXV (Summer,
1956), 20o6-207; David R. Goldfield, Black, White, and Southern Culture (Baton Rouge: Louisiana
State University Press, 1990), 115.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101218/. Accessed December 27, 2014.