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SLI alum remembers the beginnings of integration

Leroy Anderson was one of the first African American students to attend what's now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette
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Posted at 9:16 PM, Feb 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-27 23:07:05-05

LAFAYETTE, La. — U.S. Navy Veteran and retired teacher Leroy Anderson remembers his time at what's now the University of Louisiana.

When he attended the school in the 1950s, it was called Southwestern Louisiana Insititute, and he was one of the first African Americans to enroll at the school, just as integration was starting to be seen in more and more cities across the country.

“I was treated pretty, pretty well,” he said. “It was never too easy or too hard on Black students.”

He tells KATC that back in his day, he was an excellent baseball player. He wanted to join the school’s team, but he was faced with a tough reality from the coach.

“And he says ‘I know about you Anderson, I would love to have you on the team, but if I get you on the team, I'm not going to be the coach because they’re going to put me out...’ In other words, the sports were not integrated,” said Anderson.

Although he was not allowed to play ball on the team, he became heavily involved with the athletics department. He even helped to recruit athletes into the different teams at the school.

He remembers the school usually had an event to welcome all new students to the campus, but the year he and other Black students started, they skipped the event.

Years later, the school made up for it by inviting them to the campus for tea with the president.

“It was really a nice thing, it was the first time we were recognized as students, before that they just accepted us,” he said.

He now lives in Lafayette with his wife Vivian. He tells us he learned a lot during the time of integration.

“We can all get along if we accept each other for who we are,” said Anderson. “None of us are better than the rest of us, we’re all just trying our best.”

He says his love for education stems from his grandfather, who pioneered education for African Americans.

Anderson is an avid reader and lover of music. He reads around five or six novels every week and has been singing ever since he joined a music appreciation course at school.

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