A Timeline of The University 1955-1975


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The Preface

The Road to Desegregation at UVA| The University 1955-75: The Timeline

|UVA & the USA in the 1950s| UVA & the USA in the 1960s| UVA & the USA in the Early 1970s


 This timeline is a selective chronology of major events that happened at the University of Virginia in a 20 year span. Many of the events inserted occurred on the national level with the Civil Rights Movement, The Women's Rights Movement, and the Anti-War Demonstrations to name a few, to provide context for understanding the events that unfolded at the University during this time.

This timeline also serves to officially chronicle, in many cases, the names of those African Americans who entered UVA between the period of 1955-1975.


Summer 1950: Gregory Swanson—black graduate of Howard Law School. Practiced law for 2 years wanted to take graduate courses from 1950-1at University ofVirginia Law School.Applied for acceptance. And was refused.

Swanson sued to gain admission into the University with the help of NAACP lawyers Thurgood Marshall and Charles Houston. Thurgood Marshall would go on to lead the Brown v. Board of Education case before the United States Supreme Court.

And his case went to the US Circuit Court of Appeals. Governor Lindsay J. Almond told UVA’s BOV “refusal to admit

UVa student relaxing in 1955

Swanson cannot be successfully defended in court”.

Swanson gained entrance but dropped out in summer of 1951. President of UVA, Colgate Darden said: “was not well prepared for the work”(Kay 28)

Swanson’s statement: “university students did not care about racial equality or the welfare of the country (Kay 28).

Janurary of 1950: Validated by the entry of Gregory Swanson, two African Americans were able to attend the University of Virginia later that year.

Walter N. Ridley, faculty member at Virginia State University (the black college), matriculate into UVA’s doctoral program in their school of education.

E. Louise Stokes Hunter, a fellow faculty member of Ridley’s at Virginia State University, matriculated into the doctoral program in the school of education too.

June of 1953: Ridley became the first black to gain a degree of any kind at the University but also the first black to earn a doctorate at a major white Southern University.

August 1953: E. Louise Stokes-Hunter became the second black person and first black woman to gain a degree at the University of Virginia. She earned her doctorate in education.

September 1953: Edward T. Wood and Edward B. Nash were the first two blacks to enter the University of Virginia Medical School.

May 17, 1954: Brown vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court rules unanimously that segregated public schools are inherently unequal and unconstitutional. Overturning Plessy vs. Ferguson, which ruled by the Supreme Court in 1896, that facilities could be “separate but equal”.

September of 1954: Albert H. Luck and Hannibal E. Howell were the second black graduates to enter the University’s medical school.

September 1955: Anna Franklin-Savage was the first black woman to enter the University’s medical school. David Summers was the third black man to enter the University’s medical school

September 1955: Robert Bland ,Theodore Thomas, and George Harris were first black undergraduate who entered the School of Engineering. Harris and Thomas would drop out in Spring of 1956. Bland would stay on and be the first and only black man to graduate in the Class of 1959 at the University

UVA Students at Alderman Library 1955

1955: Eight of the eleven lynchings of blacks in the 1950’s occurred in 1955.
--Reverend George Lee was shot at point blank range in Belzoni,
Mississippi, for insisting on having his name kept on the voting lists.

--Lamar Smith of Brookhaven, Mississippi, was shot to death in broad daylight in front of the courthouse.

14 year old Emmett Till was mangled, beaten, and shot for whistling at a white woman. Receiving national attention, this put Jim Crow, and brutality against blacks in the national headlines.

September 1955: John F. Merchant was the second black to enter the University of Virginia Law School, but he was the first to matriculate in 1958.

December of 1955: Rosa Parks is arrested for not giving up her seat on the bus to a white man

A young Reverend named Martin Luther King Jr. is elected leader of a boycott organization, the Montgomery Improvement Association. All of black Montgomery residents boycott the Montgomery bus system

September 1956: Isaac Hunt was the third black man to enter UVA’s Law School and the second to matriculate in 1959.

February 3, 1956: Autherine Lucy admitted to the University of Alabama. Expelled later that month for making “false” and “outrageous
statements against the administration.

September 1956: Rupert Picot and Harold Marsh matriculated to the University of Virginia in 1956. Between 1956-7 about 24 or more blacks were enrolled in the University’s undergraduate program.

November 1956: MLK ends bus boycott after US Supreme affirms that segregation in busing must end.

September 1957:
James Trice, Nathaniel Gatlin, Elmer Dandridge, and Walter Payne were among a small number of black undergraduates who entered the University of Virginia. There were about 22 black students in attendance at the undergraduate program.

September 1957: 9 black High School students try to enter Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas


September 1958: Leroy Willis, a black undergraduate, enters the University of Virginia in the school of Engineering he will go on to be the first black to transfer and desegregate the College of Arts & Sciences.

October 6, 1959: Edgar F. Shannon was made President of the University of Virginia.


Click above for more info on the University in the 1960s


1960: By 1960, there were 25 black students or more enrolled in the University’s undergraduate program. At this time, Wesley Harris, a black undergraduate, enters the University’s School of Engineering.

1960: Virginius Thornton gained admission to the doctoral program in History at the University of Virginia. He was the first black to matriculate into the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He did not stay.

When Edgar Shannon became President of the University of Virginia, it was a time of a great boom for most Universities. Thanks to the G.I. Bill of 1945,many veterans college age and older were attending college again. So therefore there was a great interest in education all over the country. The democratization of education was one of the biggest booms in postwar America.
In particular, money was thrusted at the University by the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation to expand their schools in scientific study and research. And at the same time from former President Colgate Darden a new policy was being implemented that encouraged state institutions to develop endowments from private funds.

1961-1965: 26 Civil Rights workers lost their lives in the South.

September 1961: James Forman becomes SNCC’s Executive Secretary

November 17, 1961: Albany Movement formed

December 18, 1961: Albany truce; MLK leaves town


January 18-20: Students protests over sit-in leaders’ expulsions at Baton Rouge’s Southern University, the nation’s largest black school, close it down.

September 1961: Leroy Willis the African-American to receive the honor of living on the Lawn.

Leroy Willis, first African American to live on the Lawn, 1961-2

June 1962: Leroy Willis becomes the African-American to graduate of the University of Virginia College of Arts & Sciences. His degree was in Chemistry (pictured right).

September 30-Oct 1, 1962: Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black orders James Meredith admitted to Ole Miss. Meredith enrolls; riot ensues.

September 1962: Barbara Starks Favazza first African-American woman to enter UVA Medical School.

September 1963: Vivian Pinn, second African-American woman to enter UVA Medical School

November 20, 1962: JFK upholds 1960 campaign promise to eliminate housing segregation with ‘stroke of pen”.

During 1963, Betty Friedan’s novel, the Feminine Mystique, a book about the rights of women to be more than just houswives and mothers, is now a bestseller. This will kickoff the Women’s Rights Movement.

MARCH 1963: Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the University of Virginia in Old Cabell Hall to 900 students. This event was organized under Wesley Harris.

April 12-20: MLK writes “Letter From Birmingham City Jail”
May 26, 1963: Black ministers, faculty, and students conducted a silent protest by staging a sit-in at a Charlottesville Holiday Inn.

June 11: Alabama Governor George C. Wallace fails to halt admission of black student at University of Alabama; JFK federalizes National Guard and promises additional civil rights legislation.

June 12, 1963: Mississippi NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Evers is assassinated in Jackson, Mississippi

August 28, 1963: 250,000 attend the March on Washington as MLK gives his “ I Have A Dream Speech”

September 15, 1963: Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church bombed; four girls—Addie Mae Collins, Carole Denis McNair, Carole Rosamond Robertson, Cynthia Diane Wesley are killed. Later that day, a white youth shoots and kills 13-year-old Virgil Ware.

November 22nd, 1963: JFK assassinated in Dallas, Texas


March 12, 1964: Malcolm X announces withdrawal from the Nation of Islam

April 26: Mississippi Freedom Democrat Party founded in Jackson, Mississippi

May 1964: Wesley Harris is the second African American undergraduate to be selected to live on the Lawn at the University. The Engineering Honor programhad been initiated and Wes Harris was the first man, black or white, to successfully complete the program. Harris was also the first black man to be initiated into the Jefferson Literary Debating Society at UVA, the oldest society of its kind at the University and in the US.

June 13: Summer Volunteers for Freedom Summer in Mississippi begin training in Oxford, Ohio

June 21: CORE Worker Mickey Schwerner, volunteer Andy Goodman, and CORE volunteer James Chaney disappear near Philadelphia, Mississippi.

July 2: 1964 Civil Rights Act—integrating public accomodations—becomes law

July 18- August 30: Racial disturbances sweep urban America

August 4: Bodies of Schwerner, Goodman, Chaney are found in an earthen dam near Philadelphia, Mississippi.

October 1964: Chairman Aaron Henry of the Mississippi Freedom Democrat Party spoke at the University to the Young Democrats Club.

October 14: MLK wins Nobel Peace Prize


February 1965: Baynard Rustin, one of the organizers of the 1963 March on Washington spoke at the University.

June- September: SCLC runs SCOPE program registering voters in 51 Southern counties

July 28th—LBJ announces 50,000 additional US troops will go to Vietnam.

300 walked the Lawn at the University in the rain “Sympathy for Selma”march.

August 6th: 1965 Voting Rights Act becomes Law.

August 11th-16th: Watts Riot in Los Angeles; 35 die

May 16th: Stokely Carmichael succeeds Lewis as Chairman of SNCC

June 6th: James Meredith shot while on “March Against Fear” in Mississippi

June 7-26th: MLK, Carmichael, McKissick and others continue Meredith’s march. SNCC’s Willie Ricks leads cries for “Black Power”


May 12th: H. Rap Brown succeeds Carmichael as SNCC Chairman

June: John Charles Thomas, an African-American undergraduate, graduates from the University of Virginia. Thomas would go on to become the first blackSupreme Court Justice for the State of Virginia.

September: Elaine Jones, first African-American woman to matriculate to the University of Virginia Law School.

First black athlete enrolled at the University of Virginia 1967-68. Name not known.

October 2: Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African American Supreme Court Justice.

Spring: David L. Temple, an African American undergraduate is the first black member of Pi Lambda Phi, a re-chartered fraternity that entered and desegregated the Interfraternity Council System at the University of Virginia.

Nathan Johnson, was the first black faculty member at the University of Virginia. He had received a doctorate in the education school at the University of Virginia.

January 23: North Vietnamese Troops attack US base at Khe Sahn

January 31: Viet Cong guerillas and North Vietnamese guerillas launch the Tet Offensive

March 12: RFK announces he will be a presidential candidate

March 18th: MLK speaks to Memphis sanitation workers and promises to lead a support

Spring 1968: James Gay, the first black Student Council representative on Uva’s Student Council. Gay is a student at UVA’s Law School.

March 31st: LBJ says he will not run for reelection

April 4th: MLK assassinated in Memphis. Ralph Abernathy succeeds him as SCLC President

April 1968: Executive Director of the NAACP, Roy Wilkins, spoke to a crowd of
2,500 a few days after the assassination of MLK Jr. at the University.

April 5th-9th: MLK’s death spawns widespread rioting across the US; 39 die

April 9th: MLK buried in Atlanta

June 5th: RFK shot in Los Angeles Hotel

June 6th: RFK dies

Fall 1968: Shirley Chrisholm is the first African-American woman to be elected to the House of Representatives

November 1968: President Edgar Shannon of the University commission the ROTCH committee, chaired by William Rotch, the Committees goal is increase the enrollment of African American students in all schools at the University

Total African American population at UVA: .4%


University student holds this poster in 1969.

The death of Martin Luther King spelled the end of the Civil Rights Movement as history remembers it for America. At this time, however other movements inspired by the Civil Rights movement began to slowly take root.
The Women's Rights Movement, according to historians began in 1969-70. Betty Friedan's book, in 1963, The Feminine Mystique, a book that questioned a woman's rights to have a life beyond motherhood, inspired women across the country, to step up and become activists. Many of these women activists had also been a part of the Civil Rights Movement and were protesting to the sexism they witnessed and experienced within that movement.
At the same time, the University was also coming alive with further activism. The Vietname War was escalating and the academic year of 1969-70 was the last year UVA would be all male.

February 17th, 1969: Some 300 students, many wearing traditional coats and ties, convened on the Lawn for the first of the three public demonstrations.

April 1969: James Roebuck , a black graduate student, was the first black Student
Council President. Elected by his Council members

July 20th, 1969: Apollo Xi space missions—first manned landing on the moon.

August 1969: The first ever Woodstock Music Festival in Woodstock, New York.

Fall 1969: Elizabeth Johnson, first black admission officer, recruited to help the University raise its percentage on matriculating black students.

October 15th, 1969: A nationwide Vietnam Moratorium was planned. Student activists asked Shannon to cancel classes, he would not comply. 1,500 students decided to skip classes and lead a rally at noontime at the Rotunda.


Click above for more info on the University in the 1970s


Raymond Gavins, an African American graduate is the first to receive a Ph.D in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences at the University of Virginia

March 1970: Feminist Press is founded by Florence Howe.

April 1970: Newsweek profiles “new feminists”. US troops in Cambodia

May 3rd 1970: Four unarmed students protesting the invasion of Cambodia are murdered at Kent State University by the National Guard. Student protests against war across 350 campuses nationwide.

May 4th, 1970: Estimated 1500 UVA students headed toward the Rotunda, condemned the shootings and then swarmed to

Virginia State Police seize the University in May 1970 after three days of campus unrest due anti-war demonstrations.

Carr’s Hill, where many students chanted and protested. The demonstrations get out of hand and the Virginia State Police seize the University. (pictured right)

After aggressive minority recruitment plans were put in place, about 117 students or 1.8% were members of the UVA population in 1970, a significant increase.

September 1970: University black students began an organization called Black Students for Freedom, it was created to “make the University more meaningful to black people both within and outside the student community” as well as “educate [both black and white people] in the concerns of black people”. Today it is called the Black Student Alliance.

Also, Black Studies became an official major at the University of Virginia, Professor of History, Paul Gaston taught the first official class for the program. Houston Baker was appointed by a University Committee to oversee the program.

President Shannon commissioned a Standing Presidential Committee on Educational and Employment Opportunities, Obligations and Rights (EEOOR or EEOORC). The Committee was charged with advising him on “matters affecting policy, objectives, procedures and actions which will advance the University’s capacity to fulfill its commitments to educational and employment opportunities rights and obligations”

First class of undergraduate women enters the University.


1971:February 1971: “Black Culture Week” first of its kind at the University of Virginia celebrating the uniqueness and pride in being black..
*special guests included then Georgia State Legislator Julian Bond, Toni Cade, and poet Nikki Giovanni. Subsequent guests include actor Ossie Davis, poet Don L. Lee, and jazz great Donald Byrd.

The early years of the seventies saw the inception of the black fraternities and sororities at UVA including Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Phi Beta Sigma and Omega Psi Phi and tow of the historically African American sororities.

Also in 1971, the University decided to no longer accept funds from racially discriminatory scholarships.

On the national level:
Writer/activist Michelle Wallace writes her first black feminist essay entitled “Black Women and White Women” it’s published in Women’s World magazine.

July 1, 1971: The legal voting age changes from 21 to 18 years old.

September 1971: Attica prison revolt, New York.


Flo Kennedy runs for president of the US on the Feminist Party ticket. George McGovern wins the Democratic nomination.

Air war in Vietnam escalates; land troops are withdrawn somewhat.

Title IX of the 1972 education bill prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs receiving federal assistance. There are many repercussions, including on women's sports.

1972 is also a year the first rape crisis centers and women’s battered shelters open.
And in 1972, Feminist Studies, as an academic discipline is founded. Ms. Magazine begins publishing begins publishing in July

October 1972: Watergate revelations about domestic espionage and sabotage carried out by Republican infrastructure. However Nixon is reelected in November.

1972: The Black Students Alliance drafted a letter entitled “Directives and Proposals to the President and the Board of Visitors” calling for additional black faculty, an effective minority recruitment plan, a fully funded black studies program, and an alleviation of the “pressure and psychological strains” blacks face in attending school within an all white environment at the University of Virginia.

April 1972: Law school student, Linda Howard elected by her peers, is the first African American and the first woman to be President of the Law School Student Body.


University President Edgar Shannon and Student Council President James Roebuck consult before Shannon's historical speech denouncing the war in Vietnam and promoting racial equality.

Larry J. Sabato began his term as Student Council President. Currently he is a professor in American politics for the University and a political science commentator.

During Sabato’s term as Student Council President, he demanded that the University administration and faculty that had memberships in Farmington withdraw those memberships arguing that the private life of an administrator or professor could not be separated from public dealings.

Sabato also convinced the Board of Visitors that Alderman Library no longer was capable of holding the University’s constantly expanding student body. Therefore he and his Council insisted, the University is in need of a new library. The result: Clemons Library.

January 22nd, 1973: Supreme Court Decision Roe v. Wade allows for first trimester abortions on the principle of privacy and strikes down restrictions on places that can provide abortions in Doe V. Bolton

April 1973: Abortion clinics open in Chicago

Also in 1973: National Black Feminist Organization is founded. Homosexuality is struck off the list of mental disorders by the American Psychiatric Association. Women are almost 45 percent of the US workforce.

By 1973, 58,000 American soldiers are dead in Vietnam; Nixon withdraws all land troops.


Black Fraternities and sororities at the University drew incredible interest from the African American community at the University. About 29% of the undergraduate black student body pledged these organizations by July.

Also in 1974, many suits about sex bias; many gender barriers fall, including mandatory maternity leaves fore teachers (which had pushed them out of jobs); Merchant Marine Academy admits women; sex bias in housing is declared illegal. The Equal Opportunity Act forbids discrimination based on sex or marital status.

August 9th, 1974: President Nixon resigns due to complicity in the Watergate conspiracy.

September 1974: Vice President Gerald Ford, now President Ford, pardons Nixon, and announces amnesty for Vietnam draft evaders and deserters.

While the country unexpectedly welcomed Gerald Ford as President….. the University said goodbye to President Edgar F. Shannon as he stepped down from his 16 year presidency.

October 9th, 1974: Frank L. Hereford was inaugurated the President of the of the University. Hereford was also the Robert C. Taylor Professor of Physics University of Virginia. Former department head, dean, provost, and vice president, Hereford had all the experience at the University in lower positions to succeed as President, he had a B.A. and a Ph.D from the University. He was a member of Omnicron Delta Kappa, Tilka, and Alpha Tau Omega social fraternity. Hereford was also a member of the Raven Society and Phi Beta Kappa


April 29, 1975: Fall of Saigon; end of the war in Vietnam

In 1975, in the US a “typical” family (working father, housewife, two children) is only 7% of the population.

In 1969, the work of the EEOOR committee commissioned by Shannon to investigate developing better strategies for recruiting black students determined the University atmosphere was not prepared to handle black students. Many black students felt isolated and alienated.

In the 1970’s, due to racial change at the University, a Minority Student Affairs Advisory Council was created whose purpose was to tend to all matters relating to the experiences of minority students. It held a series of meetings focusing on issues of minority life at the University.

October 1975: Black Student Alliance proposed the creation of a Minority Affairs Office by the summer of 1976.

The Minority Affairs office was endorsed by Hereford and by the Advisory Council.

December 1975: A Minority Affairs Office Planning Committee was appointed in December 1975 to oversee the office. It created the purpose statement of the office. Looking at names, the projected activities, personal staffing, location, and budget, the Committee believed the mission of the office was to “promote achievement, to enhance personal security, and to facilitate expression of cultural pride among Afro-American students”.

Other ideas that came from the meeting were: academic support and special services, a resource center(library), and the Black Cultural Center.

August 1976: The University officially established the Office of African American Affairs. The first Dean of African-American Affairs was William M. Harris Sr., who was the twin brother of UVA Engineering scholar, Wesley Harris.

Other Featured Links: 

The Road to Desegregation at UVA| The University 1955-75: The Timeline

|UVA & the USA in the 1950s| UVA & the USA in the 1960s| UVA & the USA in the Early 1970s



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