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Integration and Civil Rights on Midwestern Campuses

(1960s - 1970s)

Earlier this term, His234 students browsed student newspapers from the 1960s and 1970s for articles that would help us understand race relations at predominantly white colleges and universities in the Midwest. They reviewed Kalamazoo College's Index, Kenyon College's Collegian, University of Illinois's Daily Illini, and University of Iowa's Daily Iowan. Below are a few of the articles they found.

  Kenyon College is a small liberal arts college in rural Ohio; it was a men's college until 1969, and although it did not explicitly bar African-American students, very few were admitted before 1952.  Its student newspaper is the Collegian.

The University of Iowa (in Iowa City) is a Big Ten research university; it was open to men and women of any race from its founding in 1847.  Its student newspaper is the Daily Iowan.

N.B. The paragraph numbers apply to these excerpts, not to the original articles.

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"Equalitarians Band Together in New SSAC," Kenyon Collegian, 13 Mar. 1963, p. 4.

To the Editors:

I would like to bring to the attention of your readers a matter which ought to be of concern to Kenyon students. As many of them may already know, integrationists in Jackson,  Miss., under the leadership of the North Jackson NAACP Youth Council, are engaged in a mass boycott of stores practicing anti-Negro discrimination.

The objects of the boycott are 1) The hiring and promotion of personnel on the basis of merit alone; 2) an end to segregated drinking fountains, restrooms, and seating; 3) use of courtesy titles ("Mrs.," "Miss," and "Mr.") for all customers; 4) service on a first-come, first-served basis.

The boycott, now in its fourth month, has had the overwhelming support of the Negro population of Jackson for these moderate aims.  Nevertheless, opposition, supported by the White Citizens' Council, has been bitter.  Pickets have been harrassed and arrested, a lawsuit has been brought against the boycott leaders, one of their homes has been fired on, and dynamiting has been threatened.  To add to the effectiveness of the boycott, an appeal has been made for students throughout the country to bring more pressure upon those national chain stores included in the boycott.

A group of Kenyon students, under the name of the Student Social Action Committee, have organized to support this campaign for human equality.  As our first step, we are circulating a petition voicing our concern and urging the end of discriminatory practices.

During spring vacation a delegation of Kenyon students will present this petition to the national offices, in New York, of those of the Jackson stores represented in this area (i.e. J. C. Penney's and Wolworth's, both of Mount Vernon [Ohio]).  We will report the outcome of this action to the student body following vacation, and base consideration of further action, if any, on it.

I would urge all those who have any concern for social justice and human dignity to support this protest against racial discrimination by adding their names to the Petition.

Frederick L. Houghton '63,

for the SSAC

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Mike Ebbing, "Dropped Black Athletes Would Like to Play Ball," Daily Iowan, 22 Apr. 1969, p. 1.

The 16 black football players who were dropped from the team Friday indicated Monday afternoon that they would like to play ball for the Hawkeyes next fall.

The athletes, however, contend that they have no intentions of playing football at Iowa unless their demands are met.

A boycott of the first spring practice by the 16 in support of their demands led to their dismissal from the team, an action termed by Coach Ray Nagel as "automatic self-dismissal," . . . and he added that the players in question were aware of the consequences beforehand.

Several members of BAU ["the newly formed Black Athletes Union"] met Monday with William Hubbard, dean of academic affairs, to discuss the demands and the situation at the University for the black athlete.  Hubbard, who is black, and the players attending were drawing up a letter that will be presented to the Board in Control of Athletics today. . . .

The BAU members maintain that their intention was never really to withdraw themselves from the school's athletic program, but instead, they said, "Our primary concern is to demonstrate through our protest that there is an intolerable situation at the University for all black people. . . .

The Hawkeye coach remained firm in his reply to the question of whether the 16 athletes might play again next fall.  "They're off the squad and you can take that anyway you wish."

The group was unhappy with the way Nagel had dismissed Allison and Bolden from spring drills this season and were also not satisfied with an apology he made to the two players last week.  Both players were dismissed from spring practice because of what Nagel has called "personal reasons."

It is believed that another point in question is that the black athlete is not given the right to openly display what he believes.  Specifically, the 16 are unhappy with the way Ken Price was reprimanded after he did not stand up for the playing of the national anthem at an Iowa basketball game.

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Peter Meyer, "Kenyon Blacks Suffer Burden of Four-Year Social Hell," Kenyon Collegian, 15 Apr. 1976, p. 1.

"I'm so glad I'm leaving," is the reaction of post-Comp senior Pamoja Burrell to what she described as the "common trauma" of the black experience at Kenyon.

The "trauma" felt by most Kenyon blacks is the social nightmare of belonging to a minority of nine among 1400. Most feel that the forms of social interaction are for them as blacks different from those of white students. "The way we behave among each other is different," said Burrell.  "The way we talk, dress, our concerns, these things are for us as blacks different from those of white students."

The "differences" experienced by Kenyon blacks are certainly not radical, but they are sufficient to make them feel apart from the relative colossus of the white community.  "most of them have grown up in black communities and attended predominantly black high schools," said Burrell.  "The things they do are totally, totally different."

White students feel these differences as well, believes junior Karen Winchester.  "They won't admit it.  They will talk to you and be very pleasant, but there is always a barrier," she said.  "I have a few close friends who are white, but most students here feel us as different."

A deep sense of isolation is the end result of these differences.  According to the blacks with whom the Collegian spoke, nearly all blacks at Kenyon feel socially apart from the white community, even to the extent of their feeling socially stagnant.  "I'm in a social holding pattern waiting for graduation," said Winchester.  "I never felt like a member of a minority group before I came to Kenyon.  It is a very bitter experience."

Not all blacks at Kenyon feel their differences to the extent that Winchester and Burrell do.  "Blacks who have grown up with whites don't feel as we do," Burrell said.  "They feel comfortable with whites and for them Kenyon is fine.  But," she added, "for most blacks it is a miserable social experience I wouldn't wish on anyone."

The steady decline in the number of blacks at Kenyon since Burrell was a freshman supports this last statement.  When she came there were twenty.  This year there are nine.  "I enjoyed it when there were twenty blacks here," she said.  "There were enough that I felt comfortable and relaxed.  Now I rarely do."  Of the nine, five will graduate this year.  Two of the four remaining are freshmen who plan to transfer after their sophomore year.  "I would never have come here had I known it would be like this," said freshman Mphala Mogudi, a South African.  "It is inconceivable to me that such a situation can exist in this country."

Twenty to thirty is the minimum number of blacks both Winchester and Burrell believe gurantees a comfortable enough possibility of social choice for a stable black community to survive at Kenyon.  "Unless the school is willing to make this sort of commitment," Burrell said, "they should give up the idea of having blacks here at all."

According to Burrell, the only way Kenyon is going to get more black students is through a commitment from the Board of Trustees in the form of more money.  Burrell believes that such a venture is not to be expected in the near future.  Several years ago, the Board backed a venture which ended in dismal failure:  "They brought in any black student who had a B average in an inner-city high school and expected them to succeed at Kenyon," she said.  "That was stupid.  They brought them here knowing that they wouldn't make it."  The Board, according to Burrell, views any effort aimed at increasing the number of black students as doomed to failure before it starts.

If Kenyon wants blacks, Burrell believes, they are going to have to come from the same sort of schools that most Kenyon whites have attended.  "They are going to have to come from prep schools and suburban high schools," she says.  "Those are the sort of schools that are going to produce black students that will survive at Kenyon."  She acknowledges that many colleges are competing for a relatively small number of blacks from these schools.  "It's not unreasonable to assume that Kenyon could get ten blacks a year from these sorts of schools," she says.  She believes the Admissions office is going to have to work hard to get them, but thinks it is possible.

A lack of concern is the way Burrell characterizes the Administration's approach to blacks.  "They try something for awhile and then drop it.  They have never had a consistent attempt at establishing a stable black community."  President Jordan demonstrates more concern than did his predecessor, Burrell believes, but she doesn't see enough concern demonstrated over the present situation to effect changes.  "If Kenyon wants to have blacks, it must offer a social environment conducive to black needs.  If it doesn't care, it should say so.  But it must stop this middle-of-the-road approach.  It's been a good academic experience, but it isn't worth the social hell I have been through."

Kenyon blacks are bitter.  They see little if any value in Gambier [the Ohio small town where Kenyon is located] outside of academics and they see few signs of any change in their situation.  As Winchester put it:  "I feel like a token.  I am here for the edification of the white community and I resent it."

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