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University of Kansas honors trailblazers who helped race relations at school and in city

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LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Two University of Kansas alumni were honored Monday night for the historic changes they made at the university and brought to the City of Lawrence. KU honored Homer Floyd and Ernie Shelby during the men's basketball game against the Oklahoma Sooners.

Floyd was KU’s first black football captain. He told FOX 4’s Mary Pulley the real battleground in the late 1950's was on the streets of Lawrence, where he felt the brunt of the prejudice in the once segregated city.

When Floyd and Shelby set foot in Lawrence back in the 1950's they were not allowed in local restaurants, barber shops and other public places. That is when the two men, along with basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain and others, decided to take a stand.

They told the university's then chancellor that if things didn't change, they planned to stop attending the university.  The chancellor started a series of meetings with public businesses that soon agreed to change their ways.

"In some ways it was very challenging, but in other ways they gave us motivation that we were going to succeed and that we were going to accomplish our goals irrespective of some of the bricks that were placed in our way,” Floyd said.