“Common Ground” column for Aug. 28, 2013

I am a direct recipient of the civil rights strides of a young 17-year-old boy who dared to step foot on a predominantly white college campus in 1953.

Subjected to racial slurs and threats, a young A.P. Tureaud Jr. entered LSU as its first black undergraduate student with an upbeat attitude, never imagining that his short tenure would play a pivotal role in helping to desegregate the state’s public schools and colleges.

“I knew I would be changing the paradigm for segregated schools,” Tureaud told me. “But I didn’t think this.”

Tureaud’s efforts and those of other civil rights participants are symbolic for me and countless other LSU alumni, black or white. I entered its campus in fall 1987 when diversity had become much more mainstream and programs were set up to help minority and black students thrive.

Tureaud said he grew painfully aware of the seriousness of segregation at LSU and his role to effect change in the 1950s. “Even at the age of 17, I realized that I couldn’t back out because I’d become a symbol,” he said. “The purpose was for people to be able to get an education at their state university if they choose to. It’s about the process of making things better and changing things.”

Next month marks the 60th anniversary of A.P. Tureaud Jr.’s enrollment at LSU, and the launch of a two-day alumni reunion celebration featuring musical presentations, dance performances, the LSU Gospel Choir and oratorical performances spotlighting the history of LSU black students. It will be held at the Shaw Center for the Arts on Sept. 6, and alumni tailgating will take place at LSU on Sept. 7.

The strides made by Tureaud’s father, civil rights attorney A.P. Tureaud Sr., are also pivotal. He paved the way for Tureaud Jr.’s admittance into LSU through litigation and he also helped to desegregate many of the state’s public schools.

However, Tureaud Jr.’s tenure as a student lasted only six weeks after the court ruling for integration was overturned. When an appeal was later filed and he was told he could return to school, Tureaud refused and finished college at Xavier University in New Orleans.

In the 60 years since his attendance at LSU, a building has been named after his father, a book written about Tureaud Sr. and an alumni chapter set up in his father’s name.

I remember attending classes in the A.P Tureaud building and feeling reminded that my attendance at the university was by no accident, it was fought for.

For more information about the Alumni Reunion Celebration on Sept. 6-7, visit http://www.lsublackalumni.com.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at chantewriter@hotmail.com.