University of Tennessee Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Racial Integration of Its Undergraduate Programs

The University of Tennessee has begun a yearlong celebration to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the racial integration of undergraduate programs at the Knoxville campus. The celebration will include special events, speakers, and other events for students and members of the surrounding community.

In January 1961, Theotis Robinson Jr., Charles Edgar Blair, and Willie Mae Gillespie were the first three black students to enroll in undergraduate programs at the university. Robinson now serves as vice president for diversity for the University of Tennessee system.

The university’s graduate school had enrolled a black student in 1952. Lillian Jenkins earned a master’s degree in special education in 1954. She was the first black student to earn a graduate degree at the University of Tennessee.