The First Black Students Admitted to 15 Prestigious U.S. Universities, and Their Stories Image via University of Tennessee

11. Gene Mitchell Gray

Year: 1952
School: University of Tennessee

Gene Mitchell Gray , despite being the first black graduate student enrolled at the University of Tennessee in 1952, and subsequently fired from his job. The 22-year-old father of two, according to a Jet Magazine news brief, was "frozen" out of his job at a Knoxville hotel following his acceptance into a graduate program at the school. Similar to so many cases at the time, Gray's admission resulted from a definitive court battle. When Gray applied for another job, the article said, he was given the cold shoulder. His mother, a vital source of financial aid, reportedly lost her job, too. Way too cold, Knoxville. Luckily, a group of African Americans in the area came to his assistance, allowing him the funding he needed to complete his biochemistry degree. Inspiring, indeed.

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