A women’s college in the Atlanta area has bestowed a new honor on its first Black graduate, who earned her degree 50 years ago.
Agnes Scott College in Decatur held a ceremony Wednesday for Edna Lowe Swift, commemorating her 1971 graduation with a bench and plaque on the campus lawn, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The 72-year-old Swift said she was thrilled by the honor. She received a scholarship to attend Agnes Scott and arrived on campus for the fall semester in 1967.
Violence had broken out in Black communities across the U.S. that year amid ongoing segregation and discrimination against African Americans. Six years earlier, Charlayne Hunter-Gault faced racial slurs and a mob outside her dorm after she and Hamilton Holmes integrated the University of Georgia.
Agnes Scott admitted its first Black student, Gay Johnson McDougall, two years before Swift enrolled, but McDougall did not complete her studies at the college. In a 2010 interview for a school oral history project, she recalled receiving hate mail and feeling “profoundly lonely.”
Swift said she did not experience harassment or violence, but decided not to live on campus in part because she wasn’t sure how she’d fit in, the AJC reported. She received support from Black employees at the school.
“They were proud,” she said.
She majored in Spanish and went on to a career in teaching in the Atlanta Public Schools system. College officials have invited her back in recent years to speak and a few years ago named a lounge in the campus center after her. Swift has a daughter and granddaughter who also attended the school.
The college’s president, Leocadia Zak, said in a speech that Swift “paved the way for other Black students, both here at Agnes Scott and across the Atlanta region.”
SOURCE: The Associated Press