We Are Texas East Mall Project
This project honors the Precursors, the first Black undergraduates to attend The University of Texas at Austin, and other under-represented communities by commissioning a new monument on the East Mall.
Though it had been admitting Black graduate and professional students since 1950, The University of Texas (UT) began to admit Black undergraduates only after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education US Supreme Court decision to de-segregate US public education.
There were at least six Black undergraduates who entered UT as early as Fall 1954, however, the first official cohort of Black students started undergraduate classes in Fall 1956 and are now referred to as precursors. The 50s were a time of intense racial conflict in Texas and nationally. Protests against school integration, accompanied by the constant threat of violence, were ongoing. After 1956, almost a decade passed before UT integrated other aspects of university life, including the dormitories, student health center, student government, and athletics.
Nevertheless, these Black students’ initial entry on campus was a transformational moment in the university’s history. The East Mall project will commemorate these precursors’ experiences as well as those of the other Black students in the early days of campus integration.
CCI relies on an incomplete historical record and on oral histories to recover the names of the university’s initial Black undergraduates. Some of these students tell their own stories, collected by UT through CCI’s ongoing oral history research project. Others, CCI has researched and documented with the public information available, including about those who are now deceased. We have so far identified 68 individuals who started in 1956 as well as 6 other Black students who entered UT as early as 1954.
We invite you to explore all of these stories below.
As CCI conducts ongoing research about early Black UT students, we will continue to add information to this online archive and to honor their important role in the university’s history.