Oklahoma State University Honors Its First Black Student

In 1949 state law in Oklahoma called for fines for university administrators who permitted black students to attend classes with whites. Faculty members were also subject to fines if they taught integrated classes.

Nevertheless, in the summer of 1949 Oklahoma State University in Stillwater permitted Nancy R. Davis, an African-American woman who was a graduate of historically black Langston University, to enroll in a master's degree program in home economics. In order to circumvent the state law, Davis was sequestered in the back of the room for two of her classes. In a third class, Davis was required to sit in the hallway and observe through a window. Within a week students in all three of Davis' classes demanded that she be given equal access to classroom instruction. The state chose not to interfere or assess any fines. Davis earned her master's degree in 1952 and went on to a 43-year career as a high school teacher.

Davis, a granddaughter of slaves, is now 80 years old. She was recently honored with a Nancy R. Davis Day as part of the university's Black History Month celebrations. A dormitory on the Stillwater campus and three scholarships have been named in her honor.

Copyright © 2006. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.