Read about the Precursors
- Lighting the Fire: Documentarian spotlights a beloved figure in UT Austin history to inspire others
- UT Acquires Historic East Austin Building as Community Engagement Center
- Changing the Game: Looking back at one of the first Black college athletes to take the field against the all-white Texas team
- Access & Excellence: Fostering a Culture of Change
- As He Saw It: Reflections on campus culture in the mid-1990s
- Recap: ‘As We Saw It’ Book Talk and Panel Discussion
- The Alcalde: UT’s first black undergraduates tell their stories.
- A Legacy of Diversity: Reflections on UT’s first multicultural center
- Something to Sing About
- Remembering Precursor Charles Miles
- 2016 Evening of Honors Celebrates ‘The First Class: Sixty Years Later’
- Alumni committed to enhancing campus life for black students
BSA PVIL Panel
- Black Student-Athlete Conference, Session 9: Prairie View Interscholastic League Alumni
- The UT Precursors: Discussion Panel at Evening of Honors
Media From The 60th Anniversary Weekend
“We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) (USSC+)
CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN, Opinion of the Court, May 17, 1954
In 1956 the first African American undergraduates enrolled at and attended The University of Texas at Austin. Since that watershed year, thousands of African American students have attended this flagship institution.
PRESIDENT GREGORY L. FENVES The University of Texas at Austin cordially invites you to the Celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Enrollment of the First Undergraduate African Americans at The University of Texas at Austin. As we celebrate this milestone in the history of Texas’ premiere university, we are privileged to honor those who courageously paved the way for the advancement of civil rights on the Forty Acres and throughout the United States.
Please join us for
Facing the Winds of Change with Dignity, Courage and Wisdom
A SALUTE TO THE 1956 BLACK UNDERGRADUATES
Mr. Earl Campbell UT’s first Heisman Trophy Winner
The First African American Undergraduates who enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin in 1956
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2016
2:00 p.m. President’s Reception
3:00 p.m. Public Program
The LBJ Auditorium
on the University of Texas Campus
2313 Red River Austin, Texas 78705
FULL SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
The University of Texas at Austin will mark the 60th anniversary of the first African American undergraduate enrollees with a series of events throughout the UT Black Alumni Homecoming Weekend. Festivities are scheduled around the UT vs. UTEP (University of Texas at El Paso) football game.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2016
THEN and NOW
The Precursors, Inc., an organization of African Americans who entered the University at least 40 years ago, will share their stories of UT THEN. Other alumni and students will share their stories of UT NOW. Students and alumni are invited to come and learn about the challenges in the history of UT’s desegregation. While acknowledging that the struggle continues, we can also recognize the progress that has been made.
Etter-Harbin Alumni Center
2110 San Jacinto, Austin, TX 78712
5:30–7:00 p.m. Registration
7:00–8:30 p.m. Program
Parking available in the UT Alumni Center garage on a first come, first served basis.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2016
President’s Reception for Honorees and Their Families
Public Program Honoring the 1956 African American Undergraduates
2313 Red River, Austin, TX 78705
Complimentary parking available in lot #38
Legacy Celebration Dinner*
Continue the celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the first African American undergraduates enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin! Join the Texas Exes Black Alumni Network in celebrating students, faculty and alumni. Buffet dinner, silent auction, cash bar, Black Alumni Network Awards, Precursors special tribute and more!
Crowne Plaza Hotel
6121 North Interstate Highway 35, Austin, TX 78752 7:00 p.m. Cocktails and Hors d’oeuvres
7:30 p.m. Dinner and Program
10:00 p.m.–2:00 a.m. Soul Night
LIVE STREAM: utblackalumni/events/6278158
Attire: Orange and White
Contact the hotel directly to make hotel reservations at 512-323-5466 and use the code TEU. *Fee: The cost is $60 per person. Honorees may attend at no cost. Contact Brian Ricter, Texas Exes Network Coordinator, at 512-840-5616 for payment information.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2016
Precursors Annual Meeting and Luncheon
The Precursors, Inc. will honor the first African American undergraduates at their annual luncheon.
Crowne Plaza Hotel
6121 North Interstate Highway 35, Austin, TX 78752 9:00 a.m. Meeting
11:30 a.m. Luncheon
Fee: The cost is $30 per person. Honorees may attend at no cost.
Contact Brian Ricter, Texas Exes Network Coordinator, at 512-840-5616 for payment information.
Homecoming Tailgate and Game Viewing
Sponsored by the Office of the President and co-sponsored by the Black Ex-Students of Texas and the Eta Theta Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
Food, music and prizes!
The University of Texas at Austin East Mall 3:00 p.m. Tailgate
6:00 p.m. Kick-off
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2016
Sunday B.E.S.T. Brunch
10001 Stonelake Blvd., Austin, TX 78759 512-794-8778
10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m.
- Cockrell School of Engineering
- College of Education
- College of of Fine Arts
- College of Liberal Arts
- Division of Diversity and Community Engagement
- Division of Student Affairs
- Dolph Briscoe Center for American History Graduate School
- John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies
- Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs
- Moody College of Communication
- Office of the President
- Red McCombs School of Business
- School of Architecture
- School of Information
- School of Law
- School of Nursing
- School of Social Work
- School of Undergraduate Studies
- University of Texas Libraries
The Precursors are a group of African American alumni who share the distinction of being among the first Black students to attend and integrate The University of Texas at Austin more than 40 years ago. Their goal is to ensure that future generations of Black students are supported at the university. On this site we will share the Precursors’ stories and feature information about some of their current work.
The Precursors’ courage and convictions helped shape The University of Texas at Austin into the institution it is today; their efforts should be remembered and honored as we continue to strive for a richly diverse and inclusive campus.
Alumni Committed to Enhancing Campus Life for Black Students
by Sherry Reddick
They are older, wiser and share the distinction of being among the first black students to attend and integrate The University of Texas at Austin more than 40 years ago.
They could easily harbor resentment for having to push for equal access to participate in all aspects of university life, but many do not. Instead these alumni, who formed a group called the Precursors, have returned to campus to ensure that future generations of black students are supported at the university.
The Precursors and several of its members were honored at the 25th Anniversary of the Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights at a special Evening of Honors hosted by the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement May 6, 2011. A total of 21 individuals, four couples, and three groups received Heman Marion Sweatt Legacy Awards. The awards were given to those who embody the spirit and legacy of Sweatt, the first black student to attend the University of Texas School of Law in 1950.
History of the Precursors
Since forming, the group has worked to create a shared modern history. It started with a handful of black men, called the Dudes, who met annually during the Texas Relays.
“We were once invited to meet a group of students and in one meeting we racked up $3,000 for student scholarships and then we said, ‘look at what we’ve done — let’s continue to do this,’” said Lonnie Fogle, the Precursors’ current president.
When the men invited the first black female students to join they changed the name of the group to the Precursors and set out to fulfill their mission to enhance the experience of black students on campus. Still, the Precursors actively apply their efforts to recruitment and retention and work with the university’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement as well as student groups.
During the Evening of Honors event, the Precursors also celebrated their own members’ contributions to civil rights and commemorated the 50th anniversary of the lawsuit that led to the integration of the university’s residence halls.
In 1961, Precursors Leroy Sanders, Maudie Ates Fogle and Sherryl Griffen Bozeman, two of whom were still minors and required their parents’ permission, filed suit against the university. During an emotional acceptance speech Bozeman, an ordained minister at Houston’s Brentwood Baptist Church, called the filing of the lawsuit a watershed moment that also created a watermark by leaving a lasting impression on the university.
Notable black alumni
Fogle and his wife Maudie were one of the couples honored recently for their commitment to bettering the campus climate for a new generation of black students. Fogle has been actively involved in the recruitment and retention of black students since the mid-1980s.
While living in Houston and working for DuPont, Fogle read about incidents of students donning blackface and chose to act.
“I said I could get involved with this, having been involved in the sixties and go and talk to the students and people on campus,” Fogle recounted. “The majority’s kids were doing some of the same things that their parents did twenty years earlier when I was a student.”
He became a life member of the Ex-Students’ Association, and began serving as a council member at-large, a role he continues today. During his involvement he saw the formation of a black alumni task force and served on a committee charged with developing a proposal to improve the campus climate.
Another Sweatt award recipient also honored by the Precursors was William Spearman. When Spearman graduated in 1964 it was bittersweet, he said. He had successfully fulfilled his degree requirements, but like many of his black peers he felt frustrated and shut out of the daily and social aspects of student life. Black students had to live in separate dorms, could not participate in official university-sponsored sports teams and were not allowed to enter the movie theatre or restaurants along Guadalupe Street. As a young activist, Spearman participated in protests and chaired the Campus Interracial Committee. On September 28, 1963, he delivered a resolution to the Board of Regents that called for the complete integration of university housing and athletics and the abolition of racial discrimination in faculty and staff hiring. Eight months later the Board of Regents voted to remove all racial barriers to housing and hired the first black faculty member, Ervin S. Perry, as an assistant professor in engineering. Coincidentally, Dr. Perry was Sweatt’s cousin.
Advancing the cause
During the 1950s and early 1960s when a significant number of Precursor males were majoring in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), there were no black faculty members on campus.
“We had each other, but we were on our own,” said Dr. Charles Urdy, who received his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1962 from the university.
Despite the efforts the university has made to diversify its student body and staff since, there are still areas for improvement, in Fogle’s opinion. Fogle would like to see more faculty diversity in the STEM fields.
Another future goal that Fogle wants to see implemented is the creation of a university chapter of the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. As a former director for the organization, he identifies mentoring as one way that he has given back to his community. He said his time with youth has also allowed him an opportunity to not only counsel them on potential careers, but to also share through his story one attribute that he never lacked — persistence.
The Precursors said they are proud of what they achieved during their time on campus and believe that current students have the potential to serve as change agents if they collectively identify and rally around a common cause.
“We took the hits,” said Precursor Rev. Bozeman. “We took the licks because it was worthwhile to open the doors of UT for everyone.”
Precursor Sherryl Griffin Bozeman Interviewed by Daily Texan
Reverend Sherryl Griffin Bozeman spoke to The Daily Texan about her involvement in desegregating Kingsolving Dormitory. In 1961, Rev. Bozeman and Maudie Ates Fogel were two of three women who staged a sit-in at Kingsolving. Griffin, Fogel and their fathers along with Leroy Sanders filed suit against the university in 1962 to integrate the residence halls on campus.
Precursor Rodney Griffin Talks about Dr. King’s Houston Visit
Precursor Rodney Griffin was interviewed in February by a Houston television station about Dr. Martin Luther King’s visit to Houston for the first in the 1958. At the time Griffin was 11 years old and his mother was one of a handful of people to meet King at the Houston Hobby Airport. Watch video on KHOU-TV website.