Given former Alabama Gov. Bibb Graves associaton with the Ku Klux Klan, some have voiced their apposition to placing the University of Alabama’s first black student Autherine Lucy Foster’s name next to his while renaming the three-story hall in honor of Foster.
Foster herself expressed ambivalence, telling WIAT-TV she didn’t know much about Graves, who was considered a progressive, pro-education governor in the 1930s, despite having led the Klan in Montgomery during a period when it was at its strongest.
“I wouldn’t say it doesn’t bother me, but I accept it because I didn’t ask for it and I didn’t know they were doing it until I was approached the latter part of last year,” said Foster, 92.
“The board’s priority is to honor Dr. Autherine Lucy Foster, who, as the first African American student to attend the University of Alabama, opened the door for students of all races to achieve their dreams at the university. Unfortunately, the complex legacy of Governor Graves has distracted from that important priority,” the University said.
Foster, who lives in metro Birmingham, briefly attended classes in Graves Hall after enrolling at all-white Alabama in 1956 but was expelled three days later after her presence brought protests and threats against her life. In 2019, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by the university, where she had returned and earned a masters degree in education in 1992.
The university also recognized Foster in 2017 with a historic marker in front of Graves Hall, which houses the college of education. It named a clock tower after Foster, and she’s a member of the university’s student hall of fame.