On September 18, 1959 just before 8 a.m., eight African American students (Eleanor Gandy, Sammie Burnett Johnson, Marvis Kneeland Jones, Bertha Rogers Looney, Rose Blakney Love, Luther C. McClellan, Ralph Prater and John Simpson) were escorted to their classes at then Memphis State University. At that moment, the group, later referred to as the Memphis State Eight, began a trailblazing journey by integrating one of the most prominent institutions of higher learning in the region. Their presence on campus was the focus not only of intense media scrutiny but severe criticism from much of the local public. Ostensibly for the black students' safety and to maintain an air of calm on the campus, University administrators placed certain restrictions on where and when the black students could be on campus. They were to go only to their classes, not to any of the public places on campus such as the cafeteria, and they were to leave the campus immediately after they finished their last class. These limitations were lifted after the novelty of their presence on campus had subsided, as the public's focus on their presence there had lessened, and as more and more black students were admitted to the university. Today, black students make up more than one-third of the student body and participate in all campus activities. This year marks 61 years since the Memphis State 8 were admitted and paves the way for more Black Excellence at the now University of Memphis.
The Black Alumni Chapter is asking all alumni, faculty, staff and friends to make a one-time gift at one of the preset amounts to honor the strength and legacy of the Memphis State Eight. Your generous contribution will be put towards the Luther C. McClellan Scholarship which is awarded each year to a deserving UofM minority student.
The 1959 Club consists of dedicated donors who support the success of African American students at the University of Memphis by contributing perpetually to the Luther C. McClellan Scholarship. If you are interested in joining the 1959 Club, please visit www.supportum.memphis.edu/1959club to make your perpetual gift today.
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Make a one-time gift of $19.59 in remembrance of how meaningful the year 1959 is for the UofM and our community.