More than 100 students, alumni, faculty and staff came together at the Bass Lecture Hall on March 29 to celebrate the launch of “As We Saw It,” (UT Press, March 2018), a collection of stories that gives readers a glimpse into the lives of the first African Americans to enroll at UT Austin.
The event was part of the 32nd annual Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights, a series of events held every spring that culminates with the Evening of Honors. Below are just a few highlights from the book talk and panel discussion.
“As We Saw It” editors Leslie Blair (pictured left), executive director of communications in the DDCE, and Virginia A. Cumberbatch, director of the Community Engagement Center, kicked off the event with a behind-the-scenes look into the creation of the book. In addition to documenting an important time in UT Austin history, the editors pointed out that the book is also intended to serve as a tool for creating positive changes to campus culture.
Dr. Richard Reddick (pictured far left), UT alumnus and professor in the College of Education and College of Liberal Arts, moderated a panel discussion with several alums who were among the first students of color to enroll at the university in the early 1960s. Read more about Reddick’s experiences as a Longhorn in the 1990s in this story titled “As He Saw It.”
UT El Paso alumna and former UT Austin student Martha Cotera (B.A., English ’62) opened the panel with a conversation about the experiences of Latinx students during the early years of integration, emphasizing the value of centers such as the Multicultural Engagement Center and the Center for Mexican American Studies. She pointed out the need for students to continue making progress by advocating for themselves and others.
Colonel Leon L. Holland (B.S., College of Natural Sciences ’61) shared some of the challenges he faced as one of the few African American students on campus. He is among the many Precursors whose stories are documented in the book. Holland remarked on the value the book brings to the university and stated, “We all make progress on the shoulders of the people who came before us.”
Dr. Mitchel Wong (B.A., Zoology ’60) discussed his journey from a grocer’s son to a college student. He reflected on a time when he reached a crossroads in his life. “I had to choose to work in a grocery store or to go to UT. I considered my options for about five seconds and chose to go to college.” He emphasized the need for students to take every opportunity that comes their way in college and beyond, stating: “…Instead of being entitled, be enabled.”
After the event, attendees gathered at the reception to visit and take photos with speakers and special guests whose stories are also featured in the book. Visit the UT Press website to read more about the book, which is available for purchase online and at local bookstores. Find more photos from the event on our Flickr site.