"Those Who Dared" honors desegregation anniversary, first African-American students

Monica Kizer


Mississippi University for Women will honor the first six African-American women who integrated the school 50 years ago with the “Those Who Dared” celebration.

The first African-American women to attend the school were Laverne Greene Leech, Barbara Turner Bankhead, Diane Hardy Thompson, Jacqueline Edwards, Mary Flowers and Eula M. Houser Thompson. Students, faculty and staff are all encouraged to attend the events.

“My biggest goal is to make sure students connect to this history, that this history is told and never forgotten and will never be forgotten again,” said Dr. Erin Kempker, department chair of History. “No student at The W, black or white, will not know the history or how to access it.”

The celebration kicked off on Sept. 13 at 6:30 p.m. with the presentation of “The Price We Paid: An Anthology of the Desegregation of Mississippi State College for Women.” The anthology is centered on highlighting the creative and history work of W students related to racial integration.

The celebration continued with the Those Who Dared Convocation on Sept. 15. The public convocation began at 10 a.m. in Rent Auditorium, followed by an invitation-only luncheon in Pope Dining Room, located on the second floor of the Hogarth Dining Facility. This event is geared to recognizing all six women who took the steps to open doors for the women and men of color who came after them.

 “This is an umbrella event for the university to participate and honor what is a historic moment in the university’s history,” said Maridith Geuder, executive director of University Relations. 

There will also be an art exhibit, entitled “In Their Footsteps.” Artwork will be displayed in The W’s art building, as well as on the skywalk between Stark Rec Center and Pohl, along the first floor of Painter Hall and in The W Room of Hogarth Hall. This exhibit was created to recognize areas of importance related to the African-American history of The W.

Dr. Beverly Joyce, professor and gallery director at The W, said that this project was a collaboration with students, faculty and staff within the history and art departments. 

The commemoration of the 50th anniversary celebration will end with the unveiling of the “Those Who Dared” mural. This event was prepared by Professor Alex Stelioes-Willis. Stelioes-Willis enlisted the help of his students over the summer to create illustrations of events that occurred during the desegregation of MSCW.

“The commemoration truly is a campus-wide collaboration to highlight the many doors our first African-American students opened for those who followed,” said MUW President Jim Borsig.