You do matter. The numerous achievements and talents
of Black students deserve to be recognized. As of Fall
2021, 11.16% of students on campus identified as Black or
African American. Black students are disproportionately
underrepresented in various areas on campus. Nineteen
Fifty-Six is a Black student-led magazine that amplifies
the voices within the University of Alabama’s Black
community. It also seeks to educate students from all
backgrounds on culturally important issues and topics
in an effort to produce socially-conscious, ethical and
EDITOR IN CHIEF
VISUALS & DESIGN EDITOR
ASST. ENGAGEMENT EDITOR
FEATURES & EXPERIENCES EDITOR
CULTURE & LIFESTYLE DIRECTOR
SOCIAL MEDIA & MARKETING
Rachel Parker, Lyric
Anaya McCullum, CJ
Thomas, Tonya Williams,
Karris Harmon, Asia
Smith, Christian Thomas,
Danielle S. McAllister,
Nineteen Fifty-Six is published by the Office of Student Media at The University of Alabama. All content and
design are produced by students in consultation with professional staff advisers. All material contained herein,
except advertising or where indicated otherwise, is copyrighted © 2021 by Nineteen Fifty-Six magazine. Material
herein may not be reprinted without the expressed, written permission of Nineteen Fifty-Six magazine. Editorial
and Advertising offices for Nineteen Fifty-Six Magazine are located at 414 Campus Drive East, Tuscaloosa, AL
35487. The mailing address is P.O. Box 870170, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487. Phone: (205) 348-7257.
Pictured in the cover is Jalyn Crosby. Cover photography by Anaya McCullum.
FROM THE EDITOR:
John H. Johnson was the creator of the Negro
Digest, Ebony, and JET. His entrepreneurship
inspired much of the media scene within the
Black community. When he initially had the
idea to create his first publication, the Negro
Digest, he recieved a lot of discouragement.
However, his mother believed in him and
allowed him to use her furniture as collateral
for a $500 loan. By having only one person
believe in his vision, Johnson was able to
create the Johnson Publishing Company
along with three of the top Black magazines
time for a Negro magazine,
the time for a Negro Digest or
an Ebony or JET, had come and
nothing could stop it if-and it’s a
big if – the idea could find a man
or a woman who willing to do
anything or almost anything, to
make the time come.
- John H. Johnson
TIONNA TAITE, EDITOR IN CHIEF
Growing up, I loved reading Ebony, JET,
and Essence. I was always delighted when
the latest edition of these magazines were
delivered to my house. While getting my hair
done at the salon, there would often be stacks
of older editions of these magazines for me
to read. Truly, these magazines played a big
role in instilling confidence within me as a
young Black girl in the South.
I truly love Ebony, JET, and Essence. But
if I had to choose, Ebony magazine would
probably be my favorite. This is because
Ebony paved the way for JET and Essence
magazine. Ebony magazine was one of
the first publications to display all of the
beautiful aspects of Black culture.
For this magazine issue, I wanted to
highlight the history of Black media along
with it’s evolution. During Black History
Month, I felt it was important to honor Black
publications such as Ebony, JET, and Essence.
In fact, the front cover of this magazine issue
was inspired by Ebony’s vintage covers.
I am excited to present the February 2022
issue of Nineteen Fifty-Six to you all. I
hope this magazine issue inspires you and
educates you about the history and evolution
of Black media.
BLACK IN PRINT: EBONY MAGAZINE 7
BEAUTY & RESILIENCE: ESSENCE MAGAZINE 11
I MISS YOU, A POEM 13
A TAINTED HISTORY OF COLOR 15
NEWS MOVES QUICKLY: JET MAGAZINE 18
LETTERS FROM ALUMNI 21
SEE MORE OF NINETEEN FIFTY-SIX MAGAZINE
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Ebony Magazine was founded by the late John
H. Johnson in 1945. Johnson, a prominent Black
entrepreneur, developed Ebony with the intent for
the publication to be modeled after Life magazine, but for
a Black audience. Under his company, Johnson Publishing,
he envisioned a publication for the Black audience that
would fill in the gap of coverage from white publications, in
highlighting the achievements and positive news concerning
the Black community.
“[Ebony] will try to mirror the happier side of Negro life
— the positive, everyday achievements from Harlem to
Hollywood,” Johnson said. “But when we talk about race as
the No. 1 problem of America, we’ll talk turkey.”
Johnson wanted Ebony to speak frankly about issues of
race and not pretend that it isn’t an issue and speak to an
audience that was not given the acknowledgement and
understanding of their issues as their white counterparts.
Ebony magazine was a welcome addition to the Black
community, seeing images and ideas that resonated with
many Black people gave a positive feeling of inclusion. The
magazine became apart of all parts of Black life as explained
from a 2019 New York Times article stating, “Starved for
affirming images, African-Americans made Ebony and
its sister magazine, Jet, fixtures in homes and businesses
— particularly beauty parlors and barber shops, where
customers typically read while waiting to be served.”
Controlling their own narratives and images was uplifting
and empowering for Black people, especially during this
time as the media landscape of the white press treated Black
people as less than or non-existent. Their treatment of the
Black community can be described as the “degenerating
sense of ‘nobodiness,’” coined by The Rev Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr. This is a feeling that you do not matter and are
not worthy of the respect of a title of Mr./Mrs., which only
solidified this feeling of despair and distrust among the
Black community towards the white press.
Johnson sought to change this by being that publication for
his community to trust and enjoy. The popularity of Ebony
magazine went further than the familiar, positive imagery
of Black people as explained by former Johnson Publishing
Company Senior Editor, Dr. Margena A. Christian from a
2019 WGN 9 interview, “Ebony and Jet [were] finding stories
that others had no interest in. We showed the humanity of
African-Americans, and we were doing more than just trying
to enlighten people, we were working to uplift and empower
This sentiment is reinforced by a comment in a 2021 NPR
article by Clint Wilson, a journalism professor at Howard
University, “If we go back to the founding of the Black press,
there was a hunger, a thirst to unify as a community.” This
need for unification showcased itself in different ways as
Ebony reframed the relationship between its Black readers
with advertisers as well as history.
Johnson’s motive to portray Black people in a positive
light began with smiling images of Black women cover
models along with homes of middle and upper class Black
families. This convinced advertisers that including Black
people in their advertisements would benefit them, by the
1970s’ advertisements for Coca-Cola and Virginia Slims
incorporated Black faces.
The inclusion of history was prominent on the magazine
covers and within the publication during the 1960s’ Civil
Rights Movement with the May 1965 cover featuring Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr. hand in hand with his wife Coretta
Scott King along with 50,000 others as they marched in
Montgomery. Ebony continued to highlight Dr. King’s
journey until his death with his final cover image being
Coretta at his funeral in April 1968. Articles with then
executive editor, Lerone Bennett Jr., penning a column titled,
Black Power, gave an in-depth profile of Stokely Carmichael,
former chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
By the 1980s’ Ebony was reaching 40% of African American
adults, unmatched by any other general publication. But,
as time went on circulation began to dwindle going from a
monthly print schedule to double issues once each month.
This led into the digital age in 2016 when Johnson Publishing
sold Ebony and Jet to private equity firm CVG Group.
But again, with issues of circulation coupled with complaints
of unpaid wages, Ebony filed for bankruptcy in 2019. What
may have seemed like a permanent ending, was rewritten
into a new beginning when in December 2020, Ebony was
bought for $14 million by Bridgeman Sports and Media,
owned by retired Milwaukee Bucks forward Ulysses “Junior”
After a relaunch on March 1, 2021, Ebony returned with a new
mindset and motto, “Moving Black Forward.” While being a
digital publication, they are continuing to focus on issues
relevant to their audience now with the promotion of Black
generational wealth. Through highlighting small Blackowned
businesses in select cities of Atlanta and New York
in the form of a “block party” streamed on the magazine’s
Youtube channel they are continuing the inclusion and
acknowledgement of the Black community in areas where
they were being overlooked or forgotten.
Even now by reintroducing themselves to a new generation
of readers, the Ebony legacy is still remembered and valued.
“The other magazines they’re not geared towards African
Americans, just a general audience ,” UA student Auriel King
said. “You probably won’t see too many [African Americans]
in there. But with Ebony, that’s all that you see, which is
great. So, no matter your shade or size, you’re for sure going
to see someone who looks like you in that magazine because
that’s who they cater to.”
King, a Senior majoring in Human Development and Family
Studies, recalls seeing Ebony magazines around her home as
a child and receiving issues in the mail monthly. Their eyecatching
covers are what she remembers most, showcasing
Black entertainers in a glamorous light and allure.
The appeal of Ebony magazine moving forward are the
plans of continuing to incorporate their core audience and
their needs through different mediums. These include the
relaunching of Fashion Fair cosmetics and recently the
special limited edition print issue that was released on
February 11th which featured HBCU Stem Queens gracing
With such a storied history, Ebony magazine encompasses
the cultural influences and significance of the Black
community. Stepping forward into a new era as stated in
a 2021 Chicago Tribune article by Ebony CEO, Michele
Ghee, “Our commitment is not to any city, but to the Black
community. “We know who our boss is and our boss is them,
and their opportunity to have the truth. And we want to
Providing you with tools and
resources to help you monitor and
manage your own mental health.
Download the WellTrack app and
register with your crimson email address.
THE HISTORY OF ESSENCE MAGAZINE
The creation and cultivation of Black culture is one
of the most compelling stories of our beauty and
resilience in the modern world. An integral piece
of this story is the storyteller. Black media has evolved
over years while keeping one centralized goal in mind:
“For us, by us.”
Essence magazine has represented Black women and their
voices for over 50 years. This award-winning magazine
began as a resource for the Black community by placing
fashion, lifestyle, and beauty at the forefront.
The idea was birthed in 1968, when Edward Lewis,
Clarence O. Smith, Cecil Hollingsworth and Jonathan
Blount founded Hollingsworth Group. This would later
be named Essence Communications, Inc. Originally titled
“Sapphire Magazine”, the founders aimed to have the title
reflect the gem-like beauty and resilience of Black women.
Luckily, they changed the title after discussions about the
harmful Sapphire stereotype and readers’ likelihood to
associate the magazine with the disrespectful trope.
The magazine came about during the era of “Black
capitalism.” Black capitalism is a Nixon-era political
movement among African-Americans. This narrative was
built around the idea of generational and community
wealth being developed through ownership and
development of businesses. Many Black media giants were
birthed or rose to new levels of prominence because of
this belief such as Black Entertainment Television (BET
In May of 1970, the first issue of Essence Magazine was
ready to grace the shelves. According to Lewis and Smith,
the lifestyle publication was supposed to be aimed at
“upscale African-American women”.
For this publication to be successful it needed to be
backed by staff that understood the experience of Black
women. Many figures that supported the magazine’s
humble beginnings had little-to-no prior experience in
publishing and journalism. This includes Susan Taylor.
Taylor caught wind of a budding magazine focused on the
experiences of Black women and contacted then Editor-
In-Chief Ed Lewis. Taylor had no editorial experience but
was a licensed cosmetologist. At the age of 23, she was
hired as Essence’s first ever beauty editor.
The monthly magazine saw notable success and by 1975
had amassed around $3.5 million in advertisements. Its
January 1977 issue had about 550,000 issues circulated.
Power struggles between the founders and creative
directors ensued in the mid 1970s. By 1977, Gordon Parks
Sr., creative director for Essence, took legal action. Parks
cited that he was entitled to more creative control and Ed
Lewis was prohibiting other input. Cecil Hollingsworth
and Jonathan Blount, who left over management disputes,
backed Parks push for more executive control. Parks
eventually left the publication.
By 1981, Susan Taylor had been promoted to Editor-In-
Chief with Ed Lewis still presiding as CEO of Essence
Communications. Essence’s popularity continued to grow,
only being rivaled by other Black focused publications
like Ebony and JET Magazine. Black women felt as though
they could relate to the stories as well as the celebrity
profiles being shared in each issue.
As the era of “Black capitalism” was seemingly coming
to a close, certain heads of Black media were selling
companies to white-owned companies. Berry Gordy sold
Motown records in the late 80s to a holding company
and Robert Johnson sold BET to Viacom in 2000. In 2005,
Essence sold all of its assets to Time, Inc. making it no
longer Black owned.
This sparked polarizing opinions. Some applauded
Lewis for creating the amount of revenue he did, citing
him as a shining example of Black capitalism’s ability to
bring profit to our community. Others cited the irony of
basing his success in capitalism while he profits off of the
experiences of Black women, only to sell the company and
ostracize Black women further.
Essence continued to produce issues and events focused
on Black women. This includes the continuation of the
Essence Music Festival, which started in 1995.
In 2017, Time Inc. decided to sell Essence Communications
Inc. to Shea Moisture founder Richelieu Dennis.
Dennis launched Essence Ventures, LLC. to handle the
continuation of the magazine. Essence magazine was
Black owned again and still is as of today. Chief Content
Officer Derek T. Dingle labeled the transaction as
“groundbreaking” and added that this is an example of
how African-American entrepreneurs “can execute with
vision and wherewithal to return valuable institutions to
African American ownership.”
Currently, Essence still rests as a cornerstone of Black
media. Erykah Murray, a recent graduate of UA, remembers
having Essence delivered to her house growing up.
“It was a cool thing growing up and seeing women that
look like me on the cover of magazines. Now I’m older and
I’m planning to go to the Essence Festival,” said Murray.
“I’ve heard about [the festival] so much, I just needed
to experience it and I’m excited to see Black beauty,
excellence, food, music—all of it really.”
Essence came from humble beginnings, developed a deep
history, and established a strong relationship with the
Black community. It serves as a long-standing reminder
that Black women and their voices matter.
I Miss You
We lost time and space
I let you go,
You let me fly free
Maybe one day we’ll see
But right now,
It’s just me
Though I don’t feel peace,
I feel you in the breeze
The journey of becoming a transgender or gender
non-conforming individual is difficult, especially
for Black individuals.
For many that have transitioned, what they knew about
transgender or gender non-conforming people along with
how they were viewed by society came from depictions
of them in the media. The caricature of these groups of
people combined with the demonizing of them in media
affected the ability for transgender people to accurately
tell their stories.
In the Netflix original documentary, Disclosure, the long
history of transgender misrepresentation and the fight
for change is addressed.
On Oct. 27, 2021, the University of Alabama’s Women and
Gender Resource Center (WGRC) held a screening of
Disclosure, followed by a Q&A session with guests from
the Birmingham AIDS Outreach organization. Program
coordinator Elizabeth Lester talked to attendees over
zoom about the importance of having this event.
Lester wanted to bring in people from these respective
communities to share their stories. The guests from the
Birmingham AIDS outreach organization were Sinseriti
Banks and Lauren Jacobs of the Magic City Acceptance
“October is LGBTQ History Month, and I knew that I
wanted to do a program that raised awareness around
trans and non-binary representation,” Lester said.
The documentary delves into the long history of
misrepresentation of transgender and gender nonconforming
people in media. A central theme discussed
in the documentary was the mystifying of transgender
“I think, for a very long time the ways in which trans
people have been represented on-screen have suggested
that we’re not real, have suggested that we’re mentally ill,
that we don’t exist,” actress Laverne Cox said.
Creating mystery around who transgender people really
are allows the media to play on the fear this mystery can
bring. Within this fear, inaccurate characterizations of
transgender people begin to exist.
The silent film, A Florida Enchantment is one of the most
prominent examples. In this film, the female character
takes a pill that turns her into a man. Her housemaid takes
that same pill. What is different is how each character is
depicted after transitioning to a man. The housemaid, a
white male wearing blackface, is an angry, monstrous and
vengeful Black person. The white female becomes the
image of what a man should become in society. The roots
of misrepresentation of Black transgender people lie in
Films like A Florida Enchantment depicts transgender
people—especially ones of color—as violent people
incapable of emotion, effectively dehumanizing them.
The dehumanization of people in this community has
allowed the media to create feelings of fear towards trans
people, especially trans people of color.
When transgender people aren’t the villain, they are
often depicted as outcasts or odditities that don’t belong
in society. Because of this, transgender people become
the butt of several jokes. Guest speaker Sinseriti Banks
discussed the pain this can bring during the Q&A section
of the event.
“It hurts,” Banks said. “You always stick out like a sore
thumb, you’re the topic of the conversation, sometimes
the butt of the joke.”
The act of mischaracterization doesn’t start and end
with transgender people. As the documentary points
out, the film industry has a history of dehumanizing
Black men. These jokes often depict Black men as either
hypermasculine or overly feminine. No nuance or depth
are given to these characters and the majority white
audiences enjoying these shows or movies no longer have
fear of Black men.
In the 1989 film Glory, a Black soldier raises his hand at a
white woman with no regard to her life while storming
the town of Darien, Georgia. In the scene, Colonel James
Montgomery refers to his unit as “little monkey children”
that need to be controlled.
“Stop treating us like we’re animals at a zoo or we’re dogs
at the Humane Society that you have never seen before,”
Sinseriti Banks challenges. “We’re human.”
While this is a historical nonfiction movie, the idea
of hypermasculine Black men is still prevalent. The
colonel—a white male—sees himself as the owner of
the men in his regiment. Throughout the long history
of the media, white people are controlling their Black
counterparts. Black and transgender people can only be
what their white counterparts view them as. In the media,
minority groups often have no control over their identity.
It doesn’t stop at the hypermasculinity of Black men,
In comedy, it’s common for men and women to dress up as
outlandish characters for sketches. The problem with this
is that most of these characters are Black women depicted
by Black men.
In the hit comedy sketch show In Living Color, actor Jamie
Foxx often played Wanda Wayne in sketches. Wayne—a
loud, brash and often aggressive Black woman—was
a crowd favorite. Foxx wore bright colored dresses,
blonde and curly wigs and bold makeup often.
To most of the audiences viewing the show, Foxx was
just playing a goofy character. But to others, Wanda
Wayne was a dark reminder of how society viewed Black
“If I’m not laughing, is it a joke, you know,” Writer Tiq
Milan said in the film. “It [transgender jokes] lends
itself to this idea that we’re just comedy, that we’re just
some kind of freaks, that we just playin’ dress up in
order to make other people laugh.”
Comedians dressing up as women and making
lighthearted jokes about real issues the transgender
community faces further distorts the stories of
transgender people. These jokes makes transgender
people feel seen but misunderstood.
Disclosure provided attendees with a deeper
understanding of the history of transgender people in
media. After the film, both Lauren Jacobs and Sinseriti
Banks had thoughts they wanted to leave the attendees
with. Jacobs talks about the influence Alabama has in
“I love any moment that proves to people that, as
Alabama, we are part of this conversation, we have
always been a part of this conversation, we have always
had our own queer and trans history, it’s just that
people don’t often pay attention,” Jacobs said.
The job for cisgendered people now is to start paying
more attention to how they view and depict transgender
people, especially those of color. Understanding the
impact the media has is a step in the right direction. It
must be followed by a change of heart.
HISTORY OF JET MAGAZINE
Picture yourself walking into a Black-owned beauty
salon in the mid-2000s. The smell of Blue Magic
grease and hot combs are a welcoming scent. You
sit in the waiting area, thinking about how sore your scalp
may be after this. Then you picture your freshly done hair
and remember that it’ll all be worth it. As you wait for a
chair to free up, you peer down at the stack of magazines
in front of you. To your surprise, JET Magazine has a new
issue out. You pick it up and can’t wait to flip through
This level of anticipation for JET Magazine was and still
is felt by readers for 70 years now. Armyll Smith recalls
having the magazine as a coffee table staple in their youth.
“I remember it was so cool to look at growing up. Maybe
I didn’t understand some of the news because I was so
young but the culture. The culture carried. I wanted the
hairstyles, the clothes; I wanted to order the CDs they
recommended. It was a whole movement,” Smith said.
To look back at its genesis is to realize how monumental
a magazine like this was. JET Magazine began publishing
in 1952 under John H. Johnson’s publishing company.
Johnson is considered a legend in paving the way for
“It’s impossible to overstate the significance of Johnson
publications in telling the story of Black America,” said
Donovan X. Ramsey, head of the Instagram account @
JET marketed itself as the “Weekly Negro News
Magazine”, covering the quickly unfolding Civil Rights
Movement. The name “JET” stuck with Johnson because
he wanted it to symbolize “Black and speed”. He cited
that news moved so quickly. The publication’s aim was to
provide “news coverage on happenings among Negroes
all over the U.S.—in entertainment, politics, sports, social
events as well as features on unusual personalities, places
JET garnered national attention with its coverage of
Emmett Till’s murder. Images of the teenager’s brutalized
body as he lay in his casket circulated throughout the
nation by way of JET. This contributed to bringing
national attention to the violence of the Jim Crow South
which propelled the growing Civil Rights Movement
Taking their growing audience into consideration, JET
continued to cover the Civil Rights Movement as well
as other social justice movements. From 1970-1975, JET
gave physicians the platform to discuss scientific facts
surrounding abortion and reproductive rights.
The magazine covered news on happenings among
African-Americans all over the U.S.—in entertainment,
politics, sports, social events as well as features on unusual
personalities, places and events. Celebrities and notable
figures graced the Black and white covers.
JET also became well known for its centerfold feature,
“JET Beauty of the Week.” Polarizing to say the least, JET
Beauty of the Week has been a centerpiece of the magazine
since its inception. Each issue featured a beautiful Black
woman and a short bio about herself. These women had
ranging career paths such as beauty consultants, college
students, aspiring politicians, and musicians.
Black women who gained success later in life
credited the centerfold piece as their start, from the
likes of television beauty Willona Woods to Blaxpoitation
icon Pam Grier.
Noliwe M. Rooks believes that the platform “brought
Black female bodies into the mainstream” and
challenged beauty standards set by mainly white pinup
girls at the time.
Others criticized JET’s depiction of Black women.
Beauties of the Week were largely photographed in
bathing suits from 1959-1993. These centerfold features
were accompanied by a bio of the Beauty and her body
measurements. Critics grew concerned citing the
importance of Black beauty being visible but not being
based on objectification.
JET also came under fire along with the popular Essence
magazine for promoting colorist ideals. A 1955 issue
included an advertisement for Nadinola, a bleaching
cream. The ad depicted a light-skinned woman as the
center of men’s attention.
In a study conducted by Vanessa Hazell and Juanne
Clarke, it was concluded that JET and Essence magazine
between 2003 and 2004 still allowed Eurocentric and
white standards of beauty to be promoted through
their hair care ads. Many of these companies featured
models that were either white or adhering closely to
white standards of beauty.
In June 2014, JET released its last physical issue, opting
to move to fully digital. Two years later, Johnson
Publishing sold JET and its sister magazine Ebony.
Clear View Group, a Texas-based and Black-owned
equity firm, still owns both publications in 2022.
In 2021, Michele Ghee was appointed CEO of JET &
Ebony. In a Los Angeles Times feature, Ghee recalls the
lasting legacy of the brands and how instrumental they
were in the creation of the Black media blueprint. Ghee
plans to bring the publications back into their former
glory by tying on tried-and-true ways to new solutions.
Today JET can still be found on jetmag.com, producing
content for us and by us.
JET magazine has cemented its place in the history
of Black media as an influential giant. It gave voices
to artists that the industry forgot and news that the
mainstream ignored. With its many supporters and
creative staffing, hopefully we see the magazine fully
restored to its former glory: “Black like it never left.”
THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA
ADVICE FOR A SUCCESSFUL
TO: THE UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS AT UA
am writing this letter to pass on some advice that
I will, hopefully, help you successfully navigate undergraduate
life at the University of Alabama. The
points I will touch on are based on advice I wish
someone had given me prior to the fall of 1977 entering
my freshman year. There are so many topics that
come to mind but I’ll stick to the ones below.
DEVELOP A STRONG WORK ETHIC
An impressive GPA is the first indicator of a strong work
ethic. Also, your GPA is usually one the first things future
employers take note of to determine your potential for
success in their organization. The University of Alabama
will challenge you academically and it doesn’t get easy
as you advance from your freshman to your senior year.
At times it may feel like you’re in the ring with three
heavyweight boxing champs at the same time just trying
to survive. But the strength of will and determination to
stay up late at night and work on weekends to complete
assigned tasks will serve you well as an undergraduate
and in your professional career. Work hard and surround
yourself with high achievers. There are a number of
academic support resources available at the university.
Seek them out and utilize them to the fullest. Make it
a goal to become a permanent fixture on the Dean’s List.
GET INVOLVED IN EXTRA-
Don’t hesitate to get involved. Join a fraternity or sorority,
sing in the choir, join the BSU, or any of the many other
organizations on campus. This is an opportunity to be a
part of a group and develop as a leader. As you advance
academically and professionally you will be asked to
participate in groups to solve problems and/or reach a
common goal. Gaining this experience early in your
academic career will arm you with the skills needed to be a
contributing member of the group and take on leadership
roles in any academic setting or organization. Some may
say this is too much to take on and maintain a high GPA.
But believe me you can do it by setting achievable goals
for yourselves and holding yourselves accountable for
accomplishing your goals. Later in your professional
lives the ability to multi-task under pressure will serve
you well. So don’t shy away from these challenges during
your undergraduate years. Embrace them and grow from
FIND A MENTOR
In my professional career mentors were responsible for
my greatest career advances. I was extremely shy as a
younger man so seasoned leaders took me under their
wings to ensure my success. I would advise you to be more
assertive and aggressive to ensure your academic success.
You don’t have to wait until you graduate to start the
mentoring process. Start now by surrounding yourselves
with high performing achievers in your peer group,
upperclassmen and alumni. Seek out those who have
walked the path you are now following to gain insight on
what will make you successful and the pitfalls to avoid.
There are resources on campus that support mentoring
so explore those avenues. Also, I know there are many
alums who would be more than willing to mentor young
students. The roadblocks you are experiencing now are
not new. They have frustrated others. Don’t hesitate to
seek guidance from others who previously overcame the
challenges facing you now.
This is the advice I wish I had received prior to my freshman
year. Although I had a successful career, I could have
achieved a lot more both academically and professionally
had I applied myself more while an undergraduate at the
University of Alabama. Good luck and Roll Tide.
Class of 1981
DEVELOP A PLAN
FOR THE FUTURE
As an educator in the state of Alabama we are
blessed to be a part of the Teachers Retirement
System. We pay into our retirement plan and if
we switch schools or go into another school system the
money that we have put into our retirement plan stays
with us. Most job fields do not provide a benefit as nice as
that. They do, however, offer some form of a retirement
plan with different option and though I cannot suggest
you stay at a job long enough to be fully vested or reap
the benefits that they may offer I do highly suggest as a
newly young eager employee that you do your research on
retirement planning and not put it off.
I know at this age; retirement is not at the forefront of
your mind but, time is your best friend when it comes
to saving for your retirement. CNBC did a case study for
people who start saving for retirement at age 20.
Investing $100 per month will grow to more than
$160,000 when you are ready to retire in 47 years. At $500
a month, the same 20-year-old would retire with more
than $800,000 if they stuck to their saving. If you bump
that number up to $1,000 per month, your total will grow
to over $1.6 million for retirement.
$1.6 million dollar sounds nice, and you have the
opportunity right now to really set yourself up for a more
comfortable life when you get older. Allowing you to
not be forced to work so hard in your golden years. Take
control now so you can have control later. See the big
picture and Good Luck!
Class of 1997
I reflect upon my life, here are three things I wish
I had been given at 22 years old.
• Mistakes are good
• Know and understand yourself
• Life is an obstacle course
Elbert Hubbard stated, “The greatest mistake a man
can make is being afraid of making one.” Mistakes in
life are lessons that provide you with opportunities for
personal growth and insight. In fact, I believe the keys to
a successful life must include your ability to learn from
your own mistakes and those of others. To do this you
must be willing to reflect often on your mishaps. Think
to yourself, what can I do differently next time? You need
to relive your experiences, not to shame yourself, but
as a way to avoid repeating them. Remember, you will
not always make the right decisions in your life, but you
should always make the best decisions based on what you
know and understand at the moment. Growth is on the
other side of your fear of failure.
Self-awareness is a must while going through life.
Develop the ability to understand and articulate those
things you will not tolerate. As the saying goes “If you
don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.”
Whereas knowledge will only take you so far, genuineness
and sincerity are character traits that will win people
over when it counts the most. Society can be cruel but
remain true to yourself. Whenever you find yourself in
a situation where people do not have your best interest
in mind, be willing to cut ties and move on. You may ask,
how do I discern the intentions of others? Just listen!
You are more in tune than you think.
Life is an obstacle course. It’s filled with hurdles and
challenges designed to impede your progress. You will
be tested by employers, colleagues, and friends who,
at times, will cause you to question everything about
yourself. These experiences will make you stronger
when you are able to forgive, learn from them, and move
forward. Enjoy the special times you experience in each
of your relationships with people that matter. Even
though financial hardships or a divorce, put God first
and learn from the experience. Fortunately, you have the
choice to view every experience in life either negatively
or positively. I urge you to look at the positive with the
foresight that life is an obstacle course.
In closing, learn from your mistakes, live your life and be
a testimony for others, and treat everyone with respect
and dignity. By doing these things, you will be successful
Dr. Terry Lamar
Director of Equity and Educational Initiatives,
Hoover City Schools
DEVELOP A PLAN
FOR THE FUTURE
Navigating college can be an overwhelming and
very involved experience for any student. Even
with the challenges you may encounter, it can
also be the greatest and most rewarding time of your
As an African American student at a predominately white
institution, the challenge may seem to be even greater. As
a new student on campus, I must admit it was a culture
shock for me. Coming from a school system that was
predominantly black, it was an adjustment coming from
where you were in the overwhelming majority to a setting
where you are a minority. With the culture shock, it was
easy to become overwhelmed with the size and scope of
my new surroundings and fall behind.
As new and continuing students, the following points of
advice can place you on the path in making the most of
the collegiate experience.
1. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP.
Don’t go through your college experience on cruise
control, if you are struggling academically, mentally, or
any way please seek resources that are available to you to
keep you on your path to success.
2. GET INVOLVED WHERE YOU ARE
FULFILLED. DON’T STRETCH YOURSELF
You may have the urge to get involved everywhere and in
everything at Get on Board Day, but don’t let your over
eagerness consume and drown you. Try to focus on what
gives you the best opportunities to do good and effect at
least a little change in your corner of the earth.
3. MAINTAIN POSITIVE CONNECTIONS.
Nurture relationships with those who encourage you,
challenge you and bring out the best you and reciprocate.
In the bustle of college life, it is easy to neglect these
connections and take them for granted. Take a moment to
slow down and experience the fullness of those positive
4. COLLEGE DAYS SWIFTLY PASS, SO
You are here to gain an education, but you are also here to
experience your first taste of adulthood and prepare your
minds to navigate an increasingly competitive world.
You are the dreams and legacy of Pollie, Autherine, Vivian
and James; you are the embodiment of their sacrifice. So,
take care of yourself so you may lift the students who
follow you and be a shining example to them continue
this rich and powerful legacy.
Class of 2003