As Renee Boutte Myer accepted her homecoming crown, she smiled and waved to a silent audience who stared back at her with dropped jaws.
Myer stepped into civil rights history in a pair of high heels when she became the University’s first African-American homecoming queen.
What separates Myer’s experience from other famous civil rights examples is that it did not happen in the distant past. She was crowned in 1991 – only 22 years ago, the same year many 2014 graduating seniors were born.
Myer’s experience as an undergraduate was different than most students at the University. As a 22-year-old journalism senior, she became a symbol few could imagine. Though she was deeply involved on campus and had many friends within her classes, her crowning came as a shock to a large majority of the student body.
At the homecoming game ceremony, Myer was rewarded with silence in Tiger Stadium, with the few exceptions of her close friends, family and sorority sisters. Myer said that when she walked back up to the student section in the stadium she was met with glaring eyes of disbelief. Myer responded to these glances with a smile. The significance of her being crowned did not sink in until after the ceremony, she said. These days people still approach her on the street and thank her for the role she played in African-American history at the University.
“As an undergraduate student you don’t realize the impact you might have in history,” Myer said.
Not only was Myer the first African-American homecoming queen, but she was also the last queen crowned without a king. In 1992, the University crowned its first homecoming king, making Myer’s accomplishment even more memorable and significant.
Myer’s experience was re-enacted in a production as part of the Alumni Reunion Celebration on September 6. The production highlighted numerous African-American figures that had a profound influence in University history.
The event also celebrated the first reunion of the University’s gospel choir as well as recognized the first African-American to receive a master’s degree from the University.
Though Myer is a historical symbol of the African-American community, she is still an advocate for University students as the director of advocacy and outreach for the college of Human Sciences and Education.