This week, the University of Texas is honoring alumni who were among the first waves of blacks to enroll, with a special focus on those who started their studies 60 years ago, in the fall of 1956. My colleague Ralph Haurwitz, writes about it.

In 2009, I had the privilege of interviewing Barbara Smith Conrad, one of the first African Americans admitted to UT and and who in 1957 was removed from singing the lead role in a music department production of the opera “Dido and Aeneas” when she was cast opposite a white student.

At the time, members of the Texas legislature pressured UT officials to remove Conrad from her stage appearance. Threats were made against Conrad’s life. 

The national media picked on her story, singer Harry Belafonte intervened inviting Conrad to New York. Actor Sydney Poitier and former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt reached out to Conrad too.

Read the story from 2009, when UT honored Conrad.


Promotional hand out photo of Barbara Smith taken in 1957. Barbara Smith Conrad Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History/ University of Texas at Austin.