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LENS & LINES: 60-year salute to the Memphis State 8

Five of the eight people, who – in September 1959 – ushered the reality of integration onto the campus of then-Memphis State University, were saluted with royal-like treatment Wednesday night.

The University Centre Theatre on the campus of the University of Memphis was the setting for the 60-year tribute to the eight African-American students who desegregated Memphis State and subsequently stepped into history as “The Memphis State 8.”

Luther McClellan, Marvis Kneeland Jones, Ralph Prater, Bertha Rogers Looney and John Simpson – the five surviving members of the barrier-breaking pioneers – were on hand for the Wednesday evening celebration. Sammie Burnett Johnson, Eleanor Gandy and Rose Blakney Love have passed away.

Teaming to sponsor the 60-year salute, which was held on the exact day the Memphis State 8 first attended classes, were the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Black Alumni Council and the Department of African and African American Studies.

GALLERY: (Photos by Tyrone P. Easley)


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