Civil Rights icons receive degrees after 50 year delay

Civil Rights activists set to receive degrees. / Jessica Fairley

It's been 50 years since the Civil Rights movement began in Albany and it's taken that amount of time to recognize the students who made a sacrifice for the cause.

1961 was the year that 32 Albany State College students took a stand against the injustice of segregation and because of their stance, they were denied a diploma.

Now those men and women are being honored.

"I'm proud to be president of the university, our Albany State University, at such a historic moment in time," said Albany State University President Dr. Everette Freeman.

The ASU students are finally receiving there baccalaureate degrees. School officials say the journey began with one of their students.

"She said 'My queen of Albany State College in 1961 was not able to have a full reign. In fact, her crown was taken back because of her activism in the Albany movement," said Dr. Everette Freeman, speaking on the statement of ASU's 2010-2011 homecoming queen.

After restoring the crown of Annette Jones White in 2010, the Student Government Association rallied together to honor all of the civil rights protestors.

"If it had not been for those students who made those sacrifices in the past, we would not be where we are today," said ASU's SGA President Clarence Washington.

Although they were expelled from college, the students didn't let that set back hold them back. Many went on to finish school in other locations and returned to Albany to become leaders.

Andrew Reid is now the chair of Adica and Bernice Johnson Reagon is a known historian and songstress.

Although being expelled didn't halt their future success, current ASU students feel it's only right to take this step.

"I feel that there will be great joy in knowing that these students who've fought so hard to earn an education and fought for civil rights will finally be honored," said Clarence Washington.

Each honoree is set to receive their degree on Saturday at the Albany State commencement ceremony.

Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon will serve as the commencement speaker. She will also be awarded an honorary Doctorate degree from the university.

The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia will officially approve the degrees in January.

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