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In the postwar era after World War II, African Americans increased their activism to regain their constitutional civil rights, and challenged southern segregation in numerous ways. In 1952, Autherine Lucy was admitted to the University as a graduate student, but her admission was rescinded when authorities discovered she was not white. After three years of legal wrangling, Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP got a court order preventing the University from banning Lucy and another student based on race. The following year, Lucy enrolled as a graduate student in Library Science on February 3, 1956, becoming the first African American admitted to a white public school or university in the state. During her first day of class on February 6, students and others rioted on the campus, where a mob of more than a thousand white men pelted the car in which she was taken to her classes. Death threats were made against her and the University president's home was stoned. The riots were the most violent involving a pro-segregation demonstration since the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. After the riots, the University suspended Lucy from school stating her own safety was a concern; it later expelled her on a technicality. She was active in civil rights for a time, but withdrew later that year. After her expulsion was annulled by the University in 1988, Lucy re-enrolled and completed her M. S. in Library Science in 1992.

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