JOHNSON CITY (AP) — East Tennessee State University is building a fountain to commemorate the first five black students who desegregated the school in the 1950s.
The idea for the fountain came from a group of current African-American students who were inspired by a panel discussion featuring some of those first black students at the school’s centennial celebration last year.
The fountain will have five granite stones emerging from the water. Five points will extend from the base of the fountain in the manner of a star. Each ray of the star will be inscribed with the name of one of the students — Eugene Caruthers, Elizabeth Watkins Crawford, Clarence McKinney, George Nichols and Mary Luellen Owens Wagner.
Angela Radford Lewis, associate dean for ETSU’s College of Education, said the history of ETSU’s desegregation is not as well-known as that of other schools where the enrollment of black students was accompanied by threats and violence.
“It was perfect history but got hid because it was not sensational history,” she said. “And that’s one of the things that ETSU prides itself on, that, you know, these students were able to enroll without any violence or hostility.”
Lewis said the first five students were pioneers who paved the way for African-Americans at ETSU, but there is still more to do to increase diversity on campus. According to enrollment figures from fall 2011, only 5.56 percent of ETSU students were African-American.
The fountain will be complete in October.