Black History Month: First African-American who graduated from U - KNOE 8 News; KNOE-TV; KNOE.com |

Black History Month: First African-American who graduated from ULM

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MONROE, La. (KNOE 8 News) - February is black history month. In addition to heroes like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman, there are pioneers here in the Ark-La-Miss. Our Nolan Crane spoke with the first African-American who graduated from ULM and he says the hardest part of school were not the test but learning to overcome racism.

Getting an education and continuing to learn has always been a hobby for Donald Smith who graduated 46 years ago. In 1968 the library didn't exist, the campus name was Northeast Louisiana State College, not ULM and the student body wasn't as mixed as it is today.

"We had about eight blacks attending school and I enjoyed part of it but most of it I didn't," said Smith.

Donald Smith hit the books hard earning his degree in social studies. As he accepted his diploma, he became the first African-American to graduate from ULM but some of his classmates made it difficult for him.

"We were having some problems with the kids calling us names," said Smith.

Smith says it was hard to get help from some of the faculty and even the school's president.

"He told us that if it was up to him, we would be out here and he didn't help us at all," said Smith.

With determination, will power and thick skin Smith is able to help mentor and encourage other students to achieve their dreams when they face adversity.

"He wouldn't have stayed in school had it not been for me. He figured if I made it, he could make it too," said Smith.

Donald Smith went on to earn a Ph.D. and he taught women's sports at Carroll Junior High School. He has since retired and lives in Monroe.

 

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