James Alexander Hood was the first Black American male student to register and attend classes at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, a previously all-white institution. Hood was born on November 10, 1942 in Gadsden, Alabama, to Octavie Hood and Margaret Hughes Hood. Hood a graduate of Carver High School in Tuscaloosa originally attended Atlanta’s Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) an HBCU. However, he was focused on removing racial barriers during the Jim Crow era and at the 20-years-old he saw the civil rights movement of the early 1960s evolving around him. Hood was encouraged by Alabama civil rights leaders to fill out an application for admission to the University of Alabama. He was initially denied entry because of his race, but a federal judge ordered him and another African American student, Vivienne Malone, admission to the institution.
On June 11, 1963, Alabama’s governor George Wallace, however, defied the court order and physically stood in front of the flagship University of Alabama’s (UA) Foster Auditorium door to deny entry to Hood and Malone as they attempted to register for classes. Hood said the two students were “unwelcome and unwanted.” In response President John F. Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard and threatened the governor with an arrest if he kept trying to stop the admission of the students. In a compromise Wallace allowed Hood and Malone, surrounded by federal officers, to enter through an adjacent door.
Hood registered for classes at the University, but after two months of repeated racial threats in this exceedingly hostile academic environment, he left UA for his psychological and physical safety and enrolled in Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. In 1970 Hood got a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wayne State and two years later, in 1972, he received a Master of Arts degree in criminal justice from Michigan State University.
In 1995, Hood returned to the University of Alabama to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy degree interdisciplinary studies. Hood completed his program in two years, in 1997. Ironically…