When 18-year-old Bernie Madoff arrived at the University of Alabama, on the banks of the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa, in September 1956, the school was embroiled in racial ferment.
While the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in 1954 against segregated schools in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, Bernie's college of choice was still all-white—and would stridently remain so for some years to come.
Just seven months before his arrival, a 26-year-old black woman by the name of Autherine Juanita Lucy, who had earned a bachelor of arts degree in English at an all-black college in Alabama, was reluctantly accepted by the University of Alabama administration, and with racist hostility from students and the community.
A number of court cases eventually upheld by the Supreme Court, and with the support of civil rights attorney and future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, along with activism by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), resulted in Lucy being admitted on February 3, 1956, as a graduate student in library science. She was "the first Negro" ever permitted to attend a white public school or university in Alabama's long and scandalous history of segregation and racial violence. Though allowed in classrooms, she was barred from dining halls and dormitories; the hope was she would quickly drop out.
But three days into her matriculation, an angry, stick-wielding, ...