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History Department

Race Relations at Kenyon College -- Learning in Black and White


The following article, from the Kenyon  College newspaper, provides historical context for race relations at Hanover College.

"Equalitarians Band Together in New SSAC," Kenyon College 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,

This article is one that students in His234 "Studies in American Cultural History" selected to illustrate race relations at predominantly white colleges and universities in the Midwest. It is a transcription of the text as it appears in the digital version of the Collegian. For more on race relations at Kenyon, see Black Students @ Kenyon College.

"Senate Considers Ghetto Students," Kenyon College Collegian, 24 Oct. 1968, p. 1.

The Campus Senate is currently studying the possibility of instituting a program to prepare and then admit Negro students to Kenyon from underprivileged backgrounds.

At an informal meeting of the Senate on Tuesday it was stressed that the feasibility of the program involves such general issues as the purpose of Kenyon as a liberal arts college, the academic and social facets of college and interracial relations. The preliminary discussions indicated, however, that some form of program could be adapted successfully for Kenyon.

Prof. Galbraith Crump, Saul Benjamin, and Barry Goode who have initiated the proposal, envision summer programs to prepare the ghetto students for college work. Students would be chosen on their desire to attend college and on their initiative. The program would not be designed to "skim off the cream of the crop" in the black ghettos.

Besides giving such students the opportunity to attend college the program would have the benefit of adding to the diversity of the college community. The program would not represent a "laboratory of life" approach to education but rather would fit into the basic goal of a liberal education, to give students the cultural background to prepare them for all phases of life.

It was noted that similar programs at other colleges such as Antioch and Oberlin, have run into problems with "black power" movements. One Senator expressed anxiety at the thought that black students might want to live apart from white students. Another problem would be the substantial amount of time and effort required of the faculty for the program to succeed.

The Senate agreed to sound out faculty opinion on the project, and to schedule another meeting, at which time community leaders from Indianapolis will discuss interracial relationships.

This article is one that students in His234 "Studies in American Cultural History" selected to illustrate race relations at predominantly white colleges and universities in the Midwest. It is a transcription of the text as it appears in the digital version of the Collegian. For more on race relations at Kenyon, see Black Students @ Kenyon College.

Peter Meyer, "Kenyon Blacks Suffer Burden of Four-Year Social Hell," Kenyon College 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."

This article is one that students in His234 "Studies in American Cultural History" selected to illustrate race relations at predominantly white colleges and universities in the Midwest. It is a transcription of the text as it appears in the digital version of the Collegian. For more on race relations at Kenyon, see Black Students @ Kenyon College.

Nancy Silbergeld, "Jordon Wonders:  Do We Need Minority Students?" Kenyon College Collegian, 25 Jan. 1979, p. 2, 4.

"Race is fiction . . . human races are not pure, i.e. strictly speaking, there is no such thing as race." -- Bernard Lazare.

President Philip Jordan distinguishes two important types of diversity: diversity with regard to an individual's "interest, talents, outlook, potential, and ambitions" and diversity according to socioeconomic, racial, ethnic statues. Jordan rates the former as the most important desirable goal to establish here at Kenyon College and adds, "I think we have a considerable diversity of this sort, although racial ethnic, economic diversity can serve as a reinforcement." "Establishing common humane goals of a community and simultaneously nourishing individuality within that framework is Kenyon's aim," Jordan said. "We don't want to label students stereotypically, to say that by admitting a black student you admit a black point of view. While I favor diversity (economic, racial, ethnic) I don't think it is necessary for humaneness and sensitivity. I don't see signs that Kenyon people are unaware, unconcerned, or insensitive to social injustices," said the President.

Diversity in and of itself guarantees nothing Jordan contends, "Common humane goals may be established without it and these same goals may be lacking when diversity is present . . .  (but to some extent) groups that are entirely homogeneous can't deal with the pluralism in today's society." he adds.

"It is clear that minority students are better served when there is a reasonable representation of minority status," said Jordan. "However, admissions is a kind of matchmaking process, we select individuals by taking into account the capacity of that person to be successful, benefit from the education here and make a contribution as well," Jordan explains.

The President discussed the various factors that come into play when recruiting minorities. "Kenyon did not have notable success earlier and has less diversity to build on than other institutions. It is not so much a question of financial resources and merely putting more money into it," said Jordan. "There is a sort of paradox, every year we set aside money for "disadvantaged" students and offer generous financial aid and we have never spent all the money we have allocated because it hasn't been accepted."

"Nor is it simply a question of curriculum (offering courses which deal exclusively with minority needs). Separatist studies had a critical part in the 1960's because that subject had been ignored but now these issues are integrated into already existing (but general) courses," Jordan said.

Kenyon has problems unique to its character. "Our academic character is such that given the proportion of the Black population that would be a good match for Kenyon, we are in tough competition with other schools for students," Jordan stated. He also mentioned that, "College programs more vocational in nature may have broader appeal to many more students."

Jordan said, "We have an obligation to serve well in society and therefore a desire to introduce diversity to the college. We want to be able to admit any student regardless of need. We cannot do that now and that is a limitation. Currently we have funds sufficient to provide money for fifteen disadvantaged students. We will continue to make efforts; the situation at Kenyon is not a result of either a lack of effort or a lack of interest."

This article is one that students in His234 "Studies in American Cultural History" selected to illustrate race relations at predominantly white colleges and universities in the Midwest. It is a transcription of the text as it appears in the digital version of the Collegian. (Note that ellipses are original to the article.)  For more on race relations at Kenyon, see Black Students @ Kenyon College.