UofM Will Commemorate 60th Anniversary of Memphis State Eight

September 11, 2019 - The University of Memphis will celebrate the 60th anniversary of eight African American students integrating its campus at a commemorative event Wednesday, Sept. 18, at 6 p.m. in the University Center Theatre. A reception will follow.

The Memphis State Eight, as they came to be known, were the first African-Americans to integrate the campus in September 1959. They included Luther McClellan, Marvis Kneeland Jones, Sammie Burnett Johnson, Ralph Prater, Eleanor Gandy, Rose Blakney Love, Bertha Rogers Looney and John Simpson. Five living members will be in attendance. Three – Johnson, Gandy and Love – are deceased.

The black students were allowed on the campus only until noon and were restricted from the cafeteria and student center. Despite fear and uncertainty, they persevered to receive an education.

In 2006, the University recognized the pioneering students at a formal dinner and reception.

The event is free and open to the public. Sponsors are the UofM Office of Multicultural Affairs, Black Alumni Chapter and Department of African and African American Studies.