memphis_state_eight_web.jpgMEMPHIS, Tenn. – Eight people who were the first African-Americans to attend the University of Memphis have been honored with a plaque and a reception.


The students enrolled at what was then Memphis State University in the fall of 1959. Through the years they’ve become known as the Memphis State Eight. They included Rose Blakney, Sammie Burnett, Eleanor Gandy, Marvis LaVerne Kneeland, Luther McClellan, Ralph Prater, Bertha Rogers and John Simpson.

The Commercial Appeal reported a moment of silence was observed at the event Tuesday for Sammie Burnett Johnson, who died in 2011.

University President Shirley Raines recalled initial minority students could use only the classrooms, the library and two lounges. They had to be off campus by noon. The rules were waived as more black students enrolled.

Black Marine vets honored

DETROIT – Black Marine Corps veterans from Michigan who endured rigid segregation during World War II have received national recognition for their military service.

The soldiers went through the all-African American Montford Point training camp in North Carolina before heading for war duty.

In October, the U.S. House voted to award the Montford Point Marines with the Congressional Gold Medal, its highest civilian honor. About 400 veterans of the camp went to Washington in June to receive the medal, and a number unable to make that trip received it Saturday at a Detroit police training facility. Eighty-seven-year-old William Cook told The Detroit News that his childhood in the South prepared him for the segregation at the camp in a way that northern natives weren't.

Rochester infant deaths among worst

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Monroe County’s infant death rate is among the worst in the nation, and advocates say the elevated rate is driven by deaths in inner-city Rochester neighborhoods plagued by crime and poverty.

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported that the infant death rate in Monroe County stands at 7.3 deaths per 1,000 live births, a point above the national average and two points above the state average. The death rate for black babies is far worse at 14.2 per 1,000, three times the rate of 4.2 for white infants.

Studies show that poverty, low education and smoking don’t fully explain the racial gap.

Researchers are now looking at chronic stress as a contributing factor in preterm births.


*Pictured above is the Memphis State eight.