The University of North Texas began its march to diversity on its opening day in 1890, welcoming women as well as men to what was then the Texas Normal College and Teacher Training Institute. That year, about 30 members of the Muscogee Creek tribe became the first non-white students to attend the school, and the earliest Hispanic students enrolled within a few decades.
It was in the summer of 1954 that the first African American student, A. Tennyson Miller -- a high school principal seeking enrollment in a doctoral program -- was allowed to attend. "There are decisions to be made, and we cannot be without the courage to make them," Miller wrote to President J.C. Matthews while awaiting word on his acceptance. A lawsuit brought by prospective student Joe Atkins ('66 M.Ed.) opened the school to African American undergraduates in time for the spring 1956 semester, when Irma E.L. Sephas became the first African American undergraduate to attend. In the first class of African American freshmen in the fall of 1956 were Abner Haynes and Leon King ('62, '72 M.S.), who joined the freshman football team -- a decade before many other Southern colleges integrated athletics. The prejudice the team encountered in its travels motivated the members to pull together and finish their season undefeated. Haynes became a professional football star, and King earned a doctorate and had a distinguished career in education.
The diversity of the student body continued to increase in the 1970s and beyond as more international students enrolled and groups formed to focus on the issues of sexual identity, race and ethnicity. "UNT is focused on ensuring that its diverse community is welcoming and inclusive, thereby creating an environment where all can work and learn to their full potential," says Joanne Woodard, vice president for institutional equity and diversity. "At UNT, every student and every story is important."
Prospective student Joe Atkins ('66 M.Ed.) won a lawsuit to open the college to African American undergraduates in 1955. Atkins enrolled at Texas Western College in El Paso while the lawsuit was pending and finished his bachelor's degree there, later enrolling at UNT as a graduate student.
Passionate to effect change, Elliotte Dunlap ('97) and some of his Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brothers -- along with students such as Collette Nero ('95), James Guillory ('13) and Raymond Mbala ('95) -- pressed for the creation of a Multicultural Center in 1992. In 1995, the center opened on the fourth floor of what was then the University Union. More than 1,500 students walk through its doors on the third floor of the new University Union each month.
The Division of Institutional Equity and Diversity's UNT Equity and Diversity Conference, which features keynote addresses and workshops from thought leaders who speak on topics related to social justice, identity, equity and inclusion, celebrated its 20th anniversary this year on Feb. 20. The keynote speaker was Bakari Sellers, son of civil rights icon Cleveland Sellers and the youngest African American elected official in the nation.
Following its opening on National Coming Out Day in 2013, UNT's Pride Alliance saw exponential growth. So in 2015, the alliance officially appointed a director, becoming a fully staffed operation with a student services coordinator, administrative coordinator and three student assistants.