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North Texas Desegregation Timeline
time tracks







Down the Corridor



We had some ups and downs, but we weren't the kinds to be militant. We weren't that. We weren't violent. We would just come together as a group, because there were so few of us.
— Elaine Harvey Williams (attended 1957-61)

May 1954 — The Supreme Court rules in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., that legally imposed segregation of public schools is unconstitutional.

July 1954 — Alfred Tennyson Miller, 41, is accepted into the doctoral program in education for the six-week summer term (under the 1950 Sweatt vs. Painter Supreme Court ruling that all-white colleges must accept blacks into advanced programs not available at black schools). He becomes the first African American student to enroll at North Texas.

Joe Atkins

Joe Atkins

July 1955 — Joe Atkins ('66 M.Ed.), 19, is denied admission as an undergraduate because of his race.

August 1955 — Atkins' father files suit against North Texas on his son's behalf in federal district court. Atkins enrolls at Texas Western College in El Paso.

December 1955 — The federal district court in Sherman prohibits North Texas from refusing admission to African American students based on race.

I remember well the afternoon when President J.C. Matthews called a meeting of all administrators, faculty and staff to announce the fact that North Texas would be integrated. He was a very tall, thin man who with precision made a brief but powerful statement of how the school would experience integration. … I was a teaching fellow in the School of Education, responsible for one freshman class. It is my opinion that President Matthews set the tone for the success that North Texas would take.
— Arlie Keith Turkett ('51, '52 M.Ed.,'59 Ed.D.)

February 1956 — Irma E.L. Sephas, 41, becomes the first African American student to attend as an undergraduate.

At the beginning of the spring semester, the first black woman came to UNT. I never knew her name, but my friends and I sat in windows in Marquis Hall (a girls' dorm in those days) and watched as all the TV stations from Dallas and Fort Worth filmed her going in and coming out of the economics/home economics building across the street from Marquis. This went on for most of a day. I think they were trying to stir up some controversy, but they didn't succeed. … When I look back on it, I was a witness to a big part of history — of course, I didn't realize it then.
— Mary Ward Sheldon ('59)

Abner Haynes

Abner Haynes

Fall 1956 — For the first time at North Texas, the fall semester enrollment includes African American undergraduates. Freshman football team members Abner Haynes ('62) and Leon King ('62, '72 M.S.) become the first African Americans in the North Texas athletics program.

Summer 1957 — North Texas awards its first degrees to African American students Barbara Beverly Kincaide ('57), Theodore Lee Jr. ('57 M.Ed.), Thelma Sparks ('57 M.M.Ed.) and Augustus Whitted ('57 M.Ed.).

Fall 1957 — A few African American women are allowed to live in campus residence halls. (African American men aren't allowed to live on campus until the '60s.)

1960s >>

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