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In March 1963, Loyola made nationwide headlines when its men’s basketball team, the Loyola Ramblers, beat the Cincinnati Bobcats 60-58 in the final round of the NCAA championship. Their victory marked a turning point in the history of college basketball and the civil rights movement. Never before had an integrated college team starting four Black players on a five-man squad gone on to win a national title.
Yet, even as the camera bulbs flashed in the stadium, racism was still a daily fact of life for Black people in Chicago, and Loyola was no exception.
Less than a month after the NCAA championship game, a Black sophomore named Marie Leaner was refused access to a swimming pool on the 17th floor of Lewis Towers (111 E. Pearson St.). This incident touched off a series of student-led civil rights protests, testing Loyola’s commitment to social justice when the university’s standing with a major donor was on the line.
Phoenix opinion columnist Michael Lachenmeyer sat down with Marie Leaner, who led the protests, to talk about her life, her time at Loyola and the story of segregation at the pool in Lewis Towers.
Read the full story from this interview here.