First black students at university honored

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Eight people who were the first African-Americans to attend the University of Memphis have been honored with a plaque and a reception.

The students enrolled at what was then Memphis State University in the fall of 1959. Through the years, they've become known as the Memphis State Eight. They included Rose Blakney, Sammie Burnett, Eleanor Gandy, Marvis LaVerne Kneeland, Luther McClellan, Ralph Prater, Bertha Rogers and John Simpson.

The Commercial Appeal reported a moment of silence was observed at the event Tuesday for Sammie Burnett Johnson, who died in 2011.

University President Shirley Raines recalled initial minority students could use only the classrooms, the library and two lounges. They had to be off campus by noon. The rules were waived as more black students enrolled.


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