For release: September 11, 2012
For press information, contact Gabrielle Maxey, 901-678-2843
As part of its Centennial celebration, on Tuesday, September 18, the University of
Memphis will pay tribute to the “Memphis State Eight” for directing the University
toward the path of equality and acceptance that has remained a hallmark of the University
to this day.
The eight young scholars became the first African-American students to attend then-Memphis
State University on Sept. 18, 1959.
The celebration will begin with a brunch for U of M students at 9:30 a.m. in the University
Center Fountain View Room. During the brunch, members of the Memphis State Eight will
share their experiences with students.
At 11:30 a.m., a recognition ceremony will be held on the Student Plaza between the
University Center and the Administration Building. Proclamations will declare Sept.
18 “Memphis State Eight Day” throughout Shelby County. City and county Mayors A C
Wharton and Mark Luttrell are expected to attend the event.
The outdoor ceremony will conclude with the unveiling of a historical marker honoring
the students at the northeast corner of the Administration Building. A reception
will follow in the University Center River Room. The public is invited to the unveiling
and the reception.
The trailblazing students – Eleanor Gandy, Marvis LaVerne Kneeland Jones, Bertha Rogers
Looney, Rose Blakney-Love, Luther McClellan, Ralph Prater, John Simpson and the late
Sammie Burnett-Johnson – were admitted among 4,500 white students, but it was a decade
before black students were assimilated fully into campus life.
For more information, contact Lonnie Latham in the University’s Office of Multicultural
Affairs at 901-678-2054.