Hidden History: ECU’S first black student to desegregate and graduate

Laura Marie Leary Elliot

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) —  Laura Marie Leary Elliot, the first African-American to desegregate and graduate from East Carolina University, is considered a historical pioneer by students today.

Randy Stitt is a senior at East Carolina University and says this part of the university’s history is important to learn.

“When we are studying our black legacy here at East Carolina University, she’s one of the prime examples that we always go to when it comes to leading the way for those coming behind us,” said Stitt.

Elliot’s history alone echoes perseverance for Stitt.

“It’s important to understand the journey, the trials and tribulations that Elliot and her classmates endured as students of color at a predominately white institution,” he said. “For current students, it helps us realize some of the challenges they faced and we may face today.”

Elliott’s legacy has an everlasting influence for University leaders who aim to make the university comfortable for all students of all races.

Virginia Hardy is the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and says this part of East Carolina’s history is an intricate part of where the university is today.

“Nobody quite knew about how the school became desegregated,” said Hardy. “It’s important for current students to know that they’re here off the backs of the people that came before them and helped set all of this in motion.”

As the university continues to move forward without Elliot, her name alone echoes perseverance.

“We’re grateful that we were able to have such a dynamic individual as her to lead the way,” said Stitt. “It’s important when you see that name, you recognize the rich history behind it and the significance that comes along with her in general.”

Laura Marie Leary Elliot passed away in the spring of 2013 after a short battle with cancer. But before she passed away, she was recognized at her first ECU football game in 2012. While her body may no longer be here, her spirit remains in the hearts of today’s students.

 

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