Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Selena Doss (Director), Andrew Rosa, Alexander Olson

Degree Program

Department of History

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the University of Alabama was chartered in 1820 and is Alabama’s oldest public university. Prior to 1956, the University was segregated; admission was limited to white men and women. On February 3, 1965, Miss Autherine Lucy stepped foot on campus for the first time to attend classes at the University; history was made as she was the first African American present. Lucy’s attendance stirred conflict throughout campus and the state of Alabama. Unbeknownst to many, Lucy’s attendance garnered both national and international attention. The central argument here is that Lucy’s experiences at the University of Alabama adds an important chapter to the struggle against segregation, American higher education, and enhances the global dimensions of the Civil Rights Movement. The case of Autherine Lucy will be used, as it represents an ideal example of how segregation received a substantial amount of international criticism to undermine America’s image abroad as the world’s leading democracy during the Cold War. Amongst many of America’s school segregation cases, Lucy’s was one the first to become an international event. Lucy’s case is especially unique because she is an African American woman. This allows gender to be added as a scope while addressing issues in higher education and where Lucy challenged said issues. Although efforts were made to salvage America’s international image—such as the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown decision—they were unsuccessful. To a multitude of countries abroad, America and its slogans promising freedom, liberty, and democracy were nothing more than propaganda.


African American Studies | Arts and Humanities | Higher Education | Higher Education Administration | History | Race and Ethnicity | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social History | Sociology | United States History | Women's History | Women's Studies