In 1928 Clara Belle Drisdale Williams enrolled in what was then the New Mexico College of Agriculture & Mechanic Arts in Las Cruses. While working as a teacher at Booker T. Washington School during a time when Las Cruces public schools were segregated, Williams took courses every summer. Under the rules of Jim Crow, Williams’ professors at New Mexico A&M did not allow her inside the lecture room because she was African American and she resorted to listening to lectures outside of classrooms and took notes while standing in the hallway.
Williams eventually graduated from what is now New Mexico State University in 1937 with a degree in English. She was 51 years old. Because she was African American Williams was not allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony.