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LISTEN: 'Key to the Door' Editor Interviewed on NPR

Despite the University of Virginia's many distinguished African American faculty and alumni, the first black students' acceptance into the university was hard won and, not surprisingly, makes for a compelling and inspiring story. A Key to the Door: Experiences of Early African American Students to the University of Virginia, edited by Maurice Apprey and Shelli M. Poe, presents this remarkable history through essays both by historians and by actual participants. Apprey joined NPR's Kojo Nnamdi to discuss the book and shared stories of these pioneers who faced substantial adversity but peristed in a movement that ultimately opened the door for so many other students. Apprey discusses, among others, Walter Nathaniel Ridley [pictured left], the first black graduate of UVA and the first black student to earn a doctoral degree from a predominately white university in the south. You may listen to the entire interview online.

UVA Today has published an excellent summary of the book and how it came into being. The piece highlights John Merchant, whose essay in the book describes his experience as the first black graduate of UVA's law school. Merchant's essay is no simple feel-good piece—in light of racial tension, he admits part of him was reluctant to arrive on UVA Grounds in 1954—but he descibes with great eloquence how he overcame his fears and completed his education. The book seeks to honor the entire history of African Americans at UVA and, in addition to these student stories, looks back at the role of slaves at the university and ahead to an increasingly greater African American  involvement in all facets of the institution.

A Key to the Door is available now.


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