A.P. Tureaud Jr. (R) tells his friend Steven Walkley (L) about becoming the first African-American undergraduate at Louisiana State University in 1953.
A.P. Tureaud Jr. (AT): When I got to LSU, I was miserable. The students wouldn’t speak to me. I think someone had decided that if they totally isolated me I would leave.
Steven Walkley (SW): Did you have a roommate?
AT: No, I was in a room, but there were students on either side and they took turns trying to keep me up at night with radios going, banging on the walls. If I walked in the showers everybody walked out, and the professors wouldn’t touch my papers. One woman even said, ”I’ve never taught a negro. How am I going to get through this term?”
So LSU, they have a Bengal tiger as their mascot, Mike the tiger. And Mike had a big cage and a swimming pool, and his place was right across from my dorm room. So I used to go out in the morning and talk to Mike. I’d say, ”Mike, you’re in jail and I’m in jail … how we get out of this?” So I’m sitting there talking to Mike and this pickup truck pulls up and I thought, “Oh boy, I hope this truck doesn’t have a rifle rack on the back window, you know?”
But a black man got out, he had on workers overalls, and he said, ”Are you A.P. Tureaud?” and I said, ”Yes,” and he goes into the truck and brings out his 7-year-old son. And he says, ”I want him to meet you because I want him to know that this is possible for him to come to this school thanks to you.”
AT: So, after I composed myself, I said to him, ”You’ve just ruined my day! I want to get out, and, and now I can’t because I became the symbol of integration.”
AT: I tell you, in retrospect, at 17, I grew up very quickly that year.