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Editor’s Note: With this online package and several pieces you may have noticed in recent issues of our magazine, ESSENCE is marking the 50th anniversary of 1963, a watershed year in the civil rights movement. As we reflect on that era and its lessons, ESSENCE.com is partnering with StoryCorps, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to record and preserve the personal histories of diverse Americans — including those Black Americans who were witness to the times and to our struggle for equality. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing snippets of these touching, inspiring, sometimes infuriating stories from StoryCorps’ archives.
Louisiana State University was hit with a culture shock when A.P. Tureaud Jr. first stepped foot on the all-White college campus in 1953. As the first African-American student to attend the institution, both students and faculty had no idea how to deal with such desegregation.
“The students wouldn’t speak to me,” Tureaud shared. ” I think someone had decided that if they totally isolated me I would leave.”
Just as he considered walking away from LSU, a random meeting changed what began as a miserable experience into a pivitol one. It set the stage for generations of African-American students to attend the University.
“I became the symbol of integration,” recalls Tureaud. “At 17, I grew up very quickly that year.”
In the audio clip below, recorded by StoryCorps in New York, Tureaud tells his friend, Steven Walkley, about his experience as the first student of color to attend Louisiana State University.
A.P Tureaud Jr. on StoryCorps: