‘Memphis State Eight’ to be honored on campus

‘Memphis State Eight’ to be honored on campus

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The University of Memphis will honor eight pioneers Wednesday night.

A group of students known as the “Memphis State Eight” broke down barriers at the school 60 years ago this month as the first African-American students on campus.

The students walked onto the then-Memphis State University campus in September 1959, while Jim Crow was still the rule of law in the south.

In 2006, the Memphis State Eight reunited for the first time since 1959 and said it took a lot of convincing by the local NAACP before agreeing to enroll at Memphis State.

While the students said they didn't face serious violence, they were harassed and only allowed certain rights on campus.They couldn't be on campus past noon, couldn't use the cafeteria and couldn't take physical education.

Five of the eight are still alive today: Luther McClellan, Marvis Kneeland Jones, Ralph Prater, Bertha Rogers Looney, and John Simpson. Elanor Gandy, Rose Blakney-Love and Sammie Burnett have since passed.

The five living members will be honored on campus Wednesday night with an event at the University Theater at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

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