KNOXVILLE, TS – On Jan. 4, 1961, three young African-American students walked the long staircase to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville's iconic Ayres Hall to attend their first undergraduate class. Commemorating the 50th anniversary of this historic day, UT begins a yearlong celebration to honor the rich legacy of African-American achievement.
The kickoff event -- a march from the UT Torchbearer to Ayres Hall -- will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 11. All members of the campus community and the public are invited to attend.
The yearlong celebration will feature special events, speakers and other programs for members of the campus and surrounding communities.
"The march will kick off our celebration and is a great way to remember a significant day in UT Knoxville's history," said Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek. "We look forward to getting the community involved in the yearlong celebration which will honor African-Americans' contributions to the rich history of the university."
There will be a short program following the walk to the Hill featuring Theotis Robinson Jr., one of the first African-American undergraduate students to be admitted to the university, and keynote speaker, Olympian and UT alumna Benita Fitzgerald-Mosley.
In July 1960, Robinson, who is now vice president for diversity with the UT system, applied for admission. In January 1961, he and two other African-American students, Charles Edgar Blair and Willie Mae Gillespie, gained admittance and began classes. Eight years earlier, African-American Gene Gray entered UT's graduate school.