As We See It documents history on African American integration at UT

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Community Engagement Center

Over 60 years of personal stories from African American UT alumni will be accessible through a single book that will be released later this year.

The Division of Diversity and Community Engagement will release the book “As We Saw It” in March, which documents the history of integration of black students at UT.

DDCE contacted alumni to see if they were interested in sharing their stories, which they could write themselves, or have a DDCE staff members conduct interviews and write the stories for them. The book was then edited by three editors.

UT began admitting black undergraduate students in 1956. Although over six decades have passed since then, Virginia Cumberbatch, an editor of the book and its primary author, said minority students today can relate to the stories in the book.

“There were some stories where I could’ve just erased the year to 2016 or 2017,” Cumberbatch said. “It could’ve been the account of some students today, in terms of how they felt about being a student at UT. For some students it will be encouraging to see where we’ve improved as an institution.”

The book touches on different struggles black students faced at UT, such as not being allowed to live on campus in the dorms, Cumberbatch said.

“Even though African Americans were admitted in (1956), what they really were only being granted was the opportunity to get a degree,” Cumberbatch said. “They weren’t invited to really have the Longhorn experience.”

Leslie Blair, communications executive director for DDCE and another editor, said the book’s purpose is to show the struggle many African American students faced with inclusion at UT.

“I think a lot of students aren’t aware of this history,” Blair said. “These are people who have accomplished so much in their own lives and paved the way for every African American student on campus now.”

Aileen Bumphus, associate vice president for the Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence, said although African American students are at the forefront of the University’s diversity movements, the experience of being marginalized is not exclusive to them.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to use our platform with ‘As We Saw It’ as a way to save and to continue this rich and deep discussion,” Bumphus said.

DDCE plans on extending “As We Saw It” to collect people’s stories from other minority groups, such as Asian American and Hispanic students, Blair said.