Memphis State Eight
In the fall of 1959 some 4,500 students enrolled at Memphis State University. Among them were eight African Americans, the first to break the University's color barrier. They were Bertha Mae Rogers (Looney), Rose Blakney (Love) and Marvis Kneeland (Jones), graduates of Hamilton High School; Luther McClellan and John Simpson from Manasssas High School; Ralph Prater and Eleanor Gandy from Douglas High School; and Sammie Burnett (Johnson) from Booker T. Washington High School. They became known as the "Memphis State Eight." Once on campus they were asked to avoid the cafeteria and student center. They were barred from taking physical education classes and ROTC. Police escorted them to their classes, all of which were scheduled for morning. The Eight were
required to leave the campus by noon. The University set aside special restrooms and lounges for them. Unlike at other schools, the Memphis Eight met with no physical violence. They were taunted by hecklers carrying Confederate flags. Most experienced a sense of isolation and sadness for having missed out on the youthful experiences and social functions enjoyed by other college students. Nevertheless, the Memphis State Eight persevered. These pioneers set Memphis State-now The University of Memphis-on a new path of equality, fairness and
Erected 2012 by The University of Memphis and Shelby County Historical Commission.
Location. 35° 7.114′ N, 89° 56.246′ W. Marker is in Memphis, Tennessee, in Shelby County. Marker is on Alumni Avenue just north of Walker Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 3720 Alumni Avenue, Memphis TN 38111, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. This flagpole is dedicated to the men and women of the United States military services (within shouting distance of this marker); Tom (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); J. Millard "Jack" Smith (about 500 feet away); Normal Depot (approx. 0.2 miles away); Normal Station Neighborhood (approx. 0.4 miles away); The University of Memphis (approx. 0.4 miles away); Second Presbyterian Church (approx. ¾ mile away); William G. Leftwich, Jr. Memorial (approx. 0.9 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Memphis.
Categories. • African Americans • Civil Rights • Education •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 4, 2015, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 280 times since then and 85 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on August 4, 2015, by Steve Masler of Memphis, Tennessee. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.