African American undergraduate students Diane Hardy, Barbara Turner and Laverne Greene, and graduate students Jacqueline Edwards, Mary Flowers and Eula Houser, stepped foot on the campus of Mississippi University for Women in 1966, facing all manner of ridicule to open the door for future generations of African American students. Now the university is honoring these trailblazers with a historical plaque on campus.
The marker is the result of a collaborative effort between the Mississippi University for Women and the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science. In 2016, Erin Kempker, professor in the department of history, political science, and geography at the Mississippi University for Women, had her students research the six students who desegregated the school. The research was turned into the “In Their Footsteps” exhibit for the 50th anniversary.
Chuck Yarborough, history teacher at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, had his students take that research and add to it, ultimately proposing the wording for a new state historic marker on the Mississippi University for Women campus.
“We are pleased that the State of Mississippi is honoring the women who integrated The W with this plaque. The research that was done by our W students several years ago provided the foundation for the work that the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science students did to support the application for this marker,” said Nora Miller, president of the Mississippi University for Women.