Opal Bailey being crowned homecoming queen in 1967. (Photo courtesy of Bentley Historical Library)

In 1967, a black U-M student, Opal Bailey, was named homecoming queen, in the second year of a relatively new tradition at the university. The reaction at that Saturday’s football game, when Bailey walked onto the field, offered an indication of controversies to come. Some recalled the students in Michigan Stadium remained silent, while others said they heard booing. Racial tensions emerged again during the 1968 homecoming queen selection process, and Bailey leveraged her position to make a statement. At the crowning ceremony for the new queen, Bailey said, “To those of you that hissed at me last year, I’m black and proud of it,” before handing the crown to a committee member instead of crowning her successor herself. The “snub” sparked national controversy, including an article in The New York Times.

— Adapted from “Fractured fairy tale” by Alan Glenn, Michigan Today

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