Albany State University will award honorary degrees to several dozen civil rights activists at its graduation ceremony Saturday morning.
The 32 honorees are activists from the Albany Movement in 1961. The school expelled them for participating in nonviolent protests against segregation.
“For doing the right thing, they were expelled,” said Lee Formwalt, executive director of the Albany Civil Rights Institute. “On the one hand, I’m delighted that they’re finally recognized and paid this tribute. But on the other hand, why did it take 50 years for this to happen?”
Granting the degrees almost didn’t happen. Officials pulled the request from the University System Board of Regents meeting agenda last month. Chancellor Hank Huckaby, on behalf of the board, granted permission Thursday.
The Board of Regents will have to ratify Huckaby’s approval at its next meeting in January.
“In a sense, it was the students who led the movement,” Formwalt said. “It was students who got arrested at the Trailways bus station trying to sit in the white waiting room, and that was the spark for the Albany Movement organization.”
Awarding the honorary degrees caps a year-long celebration of the Albany Movement’s 50th anniversary at Albany State.