Commission for Blacks.

Integration Timeline

For most of its history, the University of Tennessee had an all-white student body. And just like other parts of the South, the university resisted desegregation. But it was a grassroots movement led by black Southerners that finally broke down the barrier. Read more about integration at UT in an article by History Senior Lecturer Bob Hutton.


East Tennessee University becomes a federally funded land-grant school.


Tennessee's state constitution mandates racial separation of publicly funded education.


UT denies admission to six black applicants who are represented by the NAACP.


Gene Gray enrolls at the University of Tennessee as a graduate student.


Theotis Robinson Jr., Charles Edgar Blair, and Willie Mae Gillespie register at UT and attend classes beginning in January.


Brenda Peel becomes the first African American student to receive an undergraduate degree at UT.


Robert Kirk and Sammye Wynn become UT’s first African American faculty members.


Lester McClain becomes UT’s first African American football player.


Jimmy Baxter is elected the first African American president of UT student government.


Wilbert Cherry and Larry Robinson become UT’s first African American basketball players.


The Commission for Blacks is founded to assess the status of black people on campus.


Wade Houston is hired as the first African American head basketball coach.

UT 225th anniversaryThis story is part of the University of Tennessee’s 225th anniversary celebration. Volunteers light the way for others across Tennessee and throughout the world.

Learn more about UT’s 225th anniversary

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Mark Hall September 19, 2019 - 3:12 pm

Wonderful timeline, thanks for putting it together. One possible change though, this seems innocuous, not granular enough for the subject “For most of its history, the University of Tennessee had an all-white student body.” Stating the specific reason seems more accurate, maybe something like “For most of its history, the University of Tennessee banned nonwhite students from its student body.”
Similar to the difference between “slave” and “enslaved person”

woody harriman August 1, 2020 - 3:21 pm


Rose Weaver November 15, 2023 - 9:52 am

My uncle Dr. Harry S. Blanton graduated from University of Tennessee being one of the first Blacks to receive a Ph.D in the 1960’s.

Rose Weaver November 15, 2023 - 9:54 am

Archie Lee one of the Scarboro 85 students who integrated Oak Ridge Schools in 1955 was also denied admission to UT.

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