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SA woman one of first African-American students at University of Arkansas

Marjorie Williams says she didn't want to be a trailblazer

SAN ANTONIO – The University of Arkansas was one of the first schools to integrate during the civil rights movement.

Marjorie Williams, who now lives in San Antonio, was one of the first three African-American undergrad students accepted to the university in 1955.

At the age of 17, she left home to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.

"When I entered the school, I didn't want to be a trailblazer of anything," Williams said.

Even though they had been accepted to attend the university, Williams and the other two students were not allowed to enjoy the campus like other students.

The three were not allowed to live in the campus dorms. Instead, they had to live on the edge of campus in an apartment.

"We had no security, no contact person, nobody to call if we had a problem," Williams said. "We were just there to fend for ourselves."

Williams made the most of the situation while dealing with ever-present hate and bigotry.

"I realized that this was just they way things are, and I have to deal with it," Williams said.

Williams graduated in four years with a degree in nursing, but years later, she wouldn't talk about her time at the University of Arkansas. Williams said it was painful to bring up experiences where she felt embarrassed.

It wasn't until members of a church asked her to speak about her life that she realized that she had an important story to tell.

Williams has since been honored by different organizations, including the University of Arkansas.

Even though it was tough and at times she was scared, Williams credits her parents for their guidance and support.

"I was just so determined, and I did have my family and my faith," she said.


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