Library Directors of the Past, Present, and Future: Welcome Lisa Forrest!

On July 1, Lisa Forrest of Hamilton College will become the second Leland M. Park Director of the Library and Davidson College’s fifth Library Director since its founding in 1837.

Portrait of a white business woman with short blonde hair in a gray blazer and purple blouse against a light blue background.

Lisa Forrest

Forrest’s career prior to Davidson includes service as the director of research and instructional design for Hamilton College’s Burke Library and as an associate librarian at SUNY Buffalo’s E.H. Butler Library.  Ms. Forrest has been honored with the Excellence in Library Service Award from the Western New York Library Resources Council and as a fellow of the EDUCAUSE Leading Change Institute.

As Davidson College and other elite institutions of higher learning explore the future of facilities built around books in the digital era, Forrest’s expertise in both traditional and experimental models of teaching, learning, and research in the liberal arts will be of great service.

Past Library Directors of Davidson College

Sketched portrait of a woman in early 1900s attire, reads: "MISS CORNELIA SHAW LIBRARIAN AND REGISTRAR A faithful friend and true advisor to every college man"

Cornelia Rebekah Shaw, 1907-1936.

The Library Director position was inaugurated by Cornelia Rebekah Shaw, who was elected “Librarian and Registrar at a salary of $900.00 per annum” on May 28, 1907. Shaw’s twenty-nine year career on campus was notable in many respects–she was the college’s first woman employee, first librarian, first registrar, and first secretary to the President. She was well respected by all on campus and her hospitable service to the library made her well-known as every student’s best friend. In fact, the college yearbook Quips and Cranks, was dedicated to Miss Shaw in 1912. During her time, Shaw oversaw the movement of the library’s collection of little more than 10,000 volumes from the “Union Library” room in Chambers  to the Carnegie Library, which has served as a guest house since 1942. Shaw’s history of the school, Davidson College, was published in 1923 with a foreword from College President Henry Louis Smith (1901-1912) and can be found in the Davidson College Special Collections.

Portrait of Chalmers Gaston Davidson smiling in from of a campus building, appears to be either Phi or Eu Halls. Black and white.

Chalmers Gaston Davidson, 1936-1975.

Following Miss Shaw’s retirement in 1936, Davidson College’s longest serving Library Director began service: Chalmers Gaston Davidson ’28. Affectionately known across campus as “Dr. D,” Davidson was the college’s first professional librarian, he earned his Master’s in Library Science from the University of Chicago in 1936. When Dr. D’s career began, the library was very small and not the hub of student life as it is known today. The collection was a mere 39,000 volumes, the annual materials budget was $3,500, and there was only one other employee: assistant librarian, Miss Julia Passmore. However, barring the years Dr. Henry Lilly took over the position whilst Davidson served in WWII, Davidson revolutionized the library space, including overseeing the move to the Grey Memorial Library in 1941. Not only was Davidson also a member of the college History department, but by 1961, he had grown the annual library budget to $41,000. Perhaps Dr. D’s success was in his blood, given that he was a direct descendant of William Lee Davidson, the college’s namesake.

Headshot of a laughing man wearing glasses, black and white.

Leland M. Park ’63, 1975-2006.

The 1974-1975 school year brought much change to the Davidson library: Dr. D retired, Leland M. Park ’63 became the new Library Director, and the E.H. Little Library was dedicated in September of 1974. Park earned his Library Sciences degrees from Emory University and Florida State University before serving as Library Director for 31 years. At his retirement in 2006, the Quips and Cranks yearbook staff elected to dedicate their volume to Park and his service to the school and the Library Director position was named in his honor.

Portrait of Gillian Gremmels. Woman with black glasses, wavy brown hair with bangs and a pink blouse against a black background.

Gillian “Jill” Gremmels, 2007-2017.

In 2007, Gillian Gremmels was named the first Leland M. Park Director of the Library. Unlike her predecessors, Gremmels was neither an alum of the college nor a long-time resident of the area. Gremmels was raised by two professors on the campus Iowa’s Wartburg College, is a descendant of Wartburg’s founder, and continued on to attend the school and act as their Library Director. Although currently on sabbatical from the mentoring seminar faculty of the Association of College and Research Libraries and after serving Davidson College for ten years, Jill Gremmels will serve the Dean of Cowles Library at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa beginning on July 1.



Quips, Cranks, and Wanton Wiles: Origins of the College Yearbook’s Title

In yesterday’s issue of the campus newspaper, The Davidsonian, an article by Emma Brentjens ’21 profiled the two women behind the school’s yearbook–Quips and Cranks. Mariah Clarke ‘18 and Hayley Atkins ‘18 are currently co-Editors-in-Chief of the 123 year-old publication. The Quips and Cranks was founded in 1895 and, according to College Archivist DebbieLee Landi, the yearbook originally served as a creative outlet for students, becoming the second campus publication of student work and interests beyond the Davidson Monthly. Since 1895, Quips and Cranks has connected students, archivists and alumni with Davidson College’s past.

Cloth book cover. Colorblocked with one thick teal stripe on the left side, the rest is beige. "QUIPS AND CRANKS" is written in gold lettering.

Quips and Cranks 1895, volume I.

While most members of the Davidson community are more than familiar with the college yearbook, Quips and Cranks, they may be less familiar with the origins of its title.  

The title comes from a line of Milton’s poem L’Allegro as published in his 1645 anthology, Poems. The poem is a companion to another Milton piece, Il Penseroso. As Jennifer Hickey and Thomas H. Luxon of the John Milton Reading Room at Dartmouth College describe the pairing, “l’allegro is the “happy person who spends an idealized day in the country as a festive evening in the city, il penseroso is “the thoughtful person” whose night is filled with meditative walking in the woods and hours of study in a ‘lonely Towr’.” The poem puts at odds the sensations of mirth and melancholy through the perspectives of a man enjoying the wonders of nature in the countryside and vibrant city life.

Specifically, the yearbook title comes from this passage:

Haste thee nymph, and bring with thee

Jest and youthful Jollity,

Quips and cranks, and wanton wiles,

Nods, and becks, and wreathed smiles,

Such as hang on Hebe’s cheek,

And love to live in dimple sleek;

Sport that wrinkled Care derides,

And Laughter holding both his sides.

Here, Milton is idolizing the joys the nature brings to one who walks within it, such joys indeed are also brought to the students of Davidson College by one another. For those who seek to share some of that joy, digitized copies of the Quips and Cranks dating back to the 1895 edition and as recent as 2011 can be found on the Davidson College Archives & Special Collections website.

Matte silver book cover featuring shiny lowercase cursive writing reading "davidson" up the right side of the cover and the wildcat logo. "Quips and Cranks" is featuring on the lower left diagonal side of the logo.

Quips and Cranks 2017, volume CXIV.

The full version of L’Allegro can be found here.

The John Milton Reading Room article on L’Allegro can be found here.

The article from The Davidsonian can be founds here.


“The Total Package”: Advertising in Davidson’s Past and Present

Last month, Davidson College made headlines when Kiplinger’s 2018 Best College Values report revealed that it had been ranked as the liberal arts institution of the highest overall value in the country and the second best overall value in higher education, following Princeton University.

Davidson was lauded for its commitment to providing an education on par with large New England universities in a small town environment. Also noted were the College’s 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio, NCAA Division I athletics and financial aid packages devoid of loans thanks to the Davidson Trust. On offering generous financial packages, College President Carol Quillen says, “The no-loan program is our way of telling talented students of all financial backgrounds that we want them here and will do what we can to make it possible for them to attend.”

Looking back in Davidson’s history, College advertisements boasted the College’s curriculum geared toward Christian leadership, the connection to the Presbyterian Church, the outstanding faculty and available athletic facilities.

The College Archives & Special Collections features two newspaper advertisements for the College from the turn of the 20th century, unfortunately, their specific publication dates are unknown. Do you have any advertisements from Davidson’s history?

Newspaper advertisement describing school year and offerings, interested students should inquire with Registrar.

College advertisement, year unknown.

Newspaper advertisement describing course offerings and listing faculty.

College advertisement, year unknown.

Fate and the Future: Davidson’s First Programmer

A walk down memory lane on Davidson’s campus offered Chip Davis, a Davidson native and one of the first to use a computer on this campus, a unique opportunity to share his story.

A bespectacled boy of about 14 sits in a folding chair in front of the IBM 1620 computer circa 1963.

       A student working with the IBM 1620.

Chip Davis was born a year to the day that his father, William A. Davis (Class of 1950) graduated from Davidson College. His father went on to assume responsibility for the College Infirmary and growing up, Chip came to know many of the faculty as friends and neighbors.  Today, he is (mostly) retired from a career work with programmers on mainframe computer systems and then training future programs. He was first introduced to computer programming on Davidson’s campus during his teenage years.

Introducing digital technology to the Davidson curriculum

A portrait of a man in collegiate robes leans casually against his desk. His cap lies on the tabletop and he hold a bound leather book on his lap.

David Grier Martin served as the Davidson College Treasurer from 1951-1958 and as College President from 1958-1968.

In a memo to the faculty in October of 1962, College President David Grier Martin announced that the College would be renting an IBM 1620 computer on a trial basis. Davidson was going to throw its hat in the ring with a first attempt to use computers for educational and research purposes.In 1962, Dr. Locke taught an hour-long non-credit programming course. In the following years, only a few classes used the computer at all: Psychology 71: Advanced Experimental Psychology in 1963 and Applied Math 11: Introduction to Digital Computers in  1964.

Chip Davis on cutting-edge technology on Davidson’s campus in the 1960s

“One day in the winter of 1963, Dr. Bryan took me down to see the freshly installed computer in Chambers. It consisted of the 1620 Central Processing Unity and the 1622 Card Reader/Punch. The 1311 Disk Drive would come later, which meant that there was no file system on which to store programs, so you punched out a deck of cards instead.

I wrote quite a few utility routines in machine language in those early days, mostly to make things easier for the ‘real’ programmers: professors and students who were using FORTRAN to solve problems in math or physics.

An IBM 1620 Computer from the early 1960s sits atop a table. A locked shelf is in the background

The IBM 1620 Computer.

Not everything I wrote for the 1620 was serious. One program created and printed out an image of the Jolly Green Giant to give to one of my favorite teachers.

Dr. Bryan and I found a program that would play music through an AM radio, tuned off-station, on the console.  The program created programming loops that matched the frequencies of a diatonic scale. We created one that played one of his favorite harpsichord melodies, and attempted to enhanced the program to make it polyphonic. The 1620 couldn’t do it, but it sparked an interest in Fourier transforms that came in handy when I worked on an analog/digital hybrid computer in college.”

The future of tech on Davidson’s campus

Spaces for technological innovation and exploration like Chip Davis’ exists still on this campus. Studio M offers students a center to learn the new cutting edge technologies, such as 3-D printing and laser cutting. Additionally, in 2017, the Hub@Davidson was created to foster a community around technology, innovation and entrepreneurship in the Lake Norman area.

Hidden History: Writing and Watermarks–John Rennie Blake

Between 1871 and 1877, Davidson College was without a president. The College was not, however, lacking in leadership. Following President George Wilson McPhail’s death in 1871, the Board of Trustees decided to replace the role of president with a chairman. The new role was assumed by Professor John Rennie Blake (1825-1900) from Greenwood, South Carolina. Professor Blake was educated at the University of Georgia and Harvard University’s Lawrence Scientific School. Prior to his election as a professor of Natural Philosophy in 1861, Professor Blake also served as an educator at the Presbyterian Female School in  Georgia and LaGrange Synodical College in Tennessee. Although governing a college during post-civil war reconstruction was no easy feat, Davidson produced two notable alumni under Professor Blake: Woodrow Wilson (attending from 1873-1874) and Robert Broadnax Glenn (class of 1875) who went on to be the first Davidson alum elected governor of North Carolina. Unfortunately for Professor Blake, the Board of Trustees moved to reinstate the office of the president to the college in 1877 and, not being ordained by the Presbyterian Church, Blake was ineligible for presidency. However, he remained on campus acting as the College’s Vice-President and teaching astronomy and natural philosophy courses until resigning in 1885.

The Davidson College Archives holds a document by Professor Blake with a remarkably clear watermark and a reflection on the importance of classic poetry, transcribed below. Favorite Watermark.png

The Poet – John Rennie Blake (date unknown)

We would fain survey the unfading laurels won by the Poets tunefull [sic] hands. And who merites [sic] more the praise and love of man? They enhance the glories of worthy, and the depravities of the aricious [sic]. They beat the strains gentle yet startling which the wourld [sic] hears and bending listens with alternate ebbs and flows of soul as glory, or crime is the burden of the song. He may not now—as once—like the schrill [sic] tones of the clarion call to battle but he can breath a melody that will come upon the troubled heart “like an angel’s whisper.” We “brings fresh showers to the fainting flowers.” The stern realities of life melt by the soft touch of his magic wound with his sweets that sink into the inmost heart. He creates “pure fountains of thought” whose cooling waters “change the barren desert of the heart into a green oasis, as reviving to the troubled soul, as the breath to the fevered brow. The tears of bitterness, the sighs of woe—the greifs [sic] an cares that embitter the young heart—die silently away before the magic influence of the poet. Who can tell the genial flow of soul, the fervent gushings of feeling, and the divings of thought into thoughs [sic] boundless sea to bring to light some “precious pearl of truth,” that have been incited by such gifted minds, and eloquent tongues. What patriot amid the general rejoicings and the glory of his country does not see that glory enhanced and illuminated by the shining literary lights that start its skies. Supose [sic] that the sacred scroll bearing the gilded, and emblazoning names of Shakespeare, Milton, Biron [sic], and many others, should be cast into the fountain of oblivion. Is that would then harmonize the discordant elements that would then rime [sic] throughout Old Europe. Around what human after could mankind then bow in common and mutual veneration But thanks to the age those names can never perish. What lights in the distance “which lends an enhancement to the view” would then shine upon the path of the solitary scholar to pilot him to the temple of fame. The influence of the tryumphs [sic] of poetry are coexistent with time. In conclusion I will give an example of genuine poetry which cannot fail to touch the coldest heart.  

Jack and Bill went up the hill 

After a bucket of water 

Jack fell down and broke his crown 

And Bill came tumbling after 

College Library times 4

Did you know that the E.H. Little Library is not the first building to house the college’s library collections?

In fact, there were three before it.

"Old Chambers"

“Old Chambers”

The first physical space to house the book collections of the college, was in the Library Hall in “Old Chambers,” the building which burned in 1921 and was replaced with “New Chambers,” the building on campus today.  The first building to be built on campus as a library was the Carnegie Library, completed in 1910.

Carnegie Library

Carnegie Library

In 1941, the second library building opened, the Hugh A. and Jane Grey Memorial Library.

Grey Library

Grey Library

And, our present library building, the E.H. Little Library, was completed in 1974.

E.H. Little Library

E.H. Little Library

That doesn’t mean that the former library buildings are no longer here.  Carnegie is now the Carnegie Guest House, and Grey became the student union for a time and is now the Sloan Music Center.

If you’re around, come by the library after the new year and see the display in the Rare Book Room with pictures of the libraries and some of the books from the original collections.

From the Rare Book Room: Watermark Wednesday

A hallmark of good research is looking beyond the surface. Particularly, in the Davidson Archives, it is prudent to search beyond what meets the eye—literally. The Davidson College Archives and Special Collections houses a multitude of rare books and 19th century correspondences by former College Presidents which boast watermarks. Such hidden images on the pages can offer insights as to where and by whom the paper was made, as well as its quality.

A page featuring a poem and a faint watermark and lines.

Nonesuch Press watermark and chain and laid lines visible on handmade page.

The tradition of watermarks in papermaking began in Fabriano, Italy late in the 13th Century and was continued by other manufacturers of handmade paper into the 19th century. Watermarks were formed by twisting thin wires into various geometric shapes and adhered to the paper mold. The mold was simply a wood-framed wire screen which would be dipped into a “soup”-of-sorts of warm water and rag fibres several times. As the water strained through, horizontal (laid) lines and vertical (chain) lines would appear on the forming sheet. The shape of the watermark was imprinted into the sheet whilst the fibres were still wet, thereby thinning the paper in a specific area, forming the mark.

The Davidson Rare Book Room holds a 1923 reprint by The Nonesuch Press of the Poems of Andrew Marvell, the original 1681 edition of which is housed in the British Museum. As noted on the cover, the edition was printed on handmade Italian watermarked paper.

Title page reading: MISCELLANEOUS POEMS BY ANDREW MARVELL, Esq. Late Member of the Honourable House of Commons LONDON The Nonesuch Press, 30 Gerrard Street M. CM. XXIII.

Title page of the Poems of Andrew Marvell

Portrait of a mustachioed man in a long curly wig, typical of the 17th century,

Portrait of Andrew Marvell.

Uncovering the Unknown: Artifacts Excavated from Beneath the Sparrow’s Nest During July 2017

Small brick building with a covered doorway, one window and a chimney.

The Sparrow’s Nest, unknown year.

This past July, although activity had slowed down around campus for the summer, a renovation crew discovered that there was much of interest below ground. Specifically, beneath the Sparrow’s Nest. At first glance, the Sparrow’s Nest does not look like much. It is a small, brick cottage nestled between Belk Hall and Vail Commons, across from the Lula Bell Houston Laundry. During the school year, any glimpse of activity in or around the building. To the untrained eye, the Sparrow’s Nest appears to be unused, perhaps simply a storage room. However, the history of the Sparrow’s Nest reveals there is much to be learned about its history with reference to Davidson College and the town of Davidson itself.

During renovations in July, Barbara Benson, Director of Building Services, and David Holthouser, Director of Facilities and Engineering, informed the College Archives & Special Collections that the crew found more than the expected decay of an old building. Whilst removing the termite-damaged floor system, the renovation crew from Physical Plant discovered a myriad of artifacts from former inhabitants of the Sparrow’s Nest. Currently, the building is used as a Physical Plant facility. Prior, the Sparrow’s Nest served as a Campus Security Office from 1974 to 1990. It was acquired by the College in 1908 and continued to serve as a boarding house for some time after its acquisition.


A bearded gentleman in a suit sits with his left arm folded on the armrest.

Reverend Patrick Jones Sparrow.

A green plastic bag with broken animal bones and glass pieces. A clear plastic bag with old, worn pairs of shoes.

The shoes. bones, and personal belongings found beneath the floor of the Sparrow’s Nest in July.

The house originally served as slave/servants’ quarters for Thomas Williams Sparrow (1814-1890.) Thomas was brother to College co-founder Patrick Jones Sparrow, who taught Ancient Languages at the College from 1837 to 1840. Thomas W. Sparrow married Martha Lucinda Stewart (1820-1905) and together the two ran a boarding house for the college students in a house on North Main Street. In the May 1912 edition of D.C. Magazine entitled “Memories of the Fifties,” J.J. Stringfellow from the Class of 1850 recalls that the Sparrows were nicknamed “Uncle Tom” and “Aunt Tom” by students. Stringfellow describes them as “always kind in treatment and generous at table” and continues to compliment their hospitality saying, “No boy of that olden time can ever forget their famous molasses pies.” Thomas Sparrow is buried in the Davidson College cemetery.

As for the children of Thomas and Martha Sparrow, their daughter Helen married J. Wilson McKay, D.D. from the Class of 1870. He went on to be the president of the Board of Trustees for some time. Their son, John Sparrow (1845- October 30, 1883) was a bit of a troublemaker and was eventually expelled from Davidson College. In 1866, John Sparrow eloped with Helen Kirkpatrick (1847-1900), the daughter of the College President of the time, John Lycan Kirkpatrick. John and Nellie had seven children. Their four daughters were named Anna, Marry, Mattie, and Nellie; the latter married Wilson McKay, the son of Dr. McKay who had been President of the Board of Trustees. John and Nellie also had three sons: Robert Gordon, Thomas Hill, and John Kirkpatrick Sparrow. Although Thomas Hill Sparrow did not attend college at all, his two brothers did. John Kirkpatrick Sparrow was a member of the Davidson Class of 1901 but did not graduate. Notably, Robert Gordon Sparrow was the Valedictorian of the Class of 1888 and long-held the record for the highest grades ever received at Davidson College.

Three rows of young men in suits stand in front of windows.

The Class of 1888. Robert Sparrow is pictured second from the left, seated in the first row.

There is great evidence of the Sparrows’ slaveholding practice. In an essay entitled “My Unreconstructed Grandmother” by Mary Sparrow Harrison, she describes the attitudes and experiences of her grandmother, Martha Lucinda Stewart Sparrow. Mary remembers Martha as a distant, unaffectionate grandmother who was proud, yet hardened by her Southern heritage. According to Mary, Lincoln’s name was never mentioned in their household but that former slaves continued to visit her grandparents annually for years after the Southern “surrender.” Following the death of John Kirkpatrick Sparrow, Mary’s father, a former slave traveled from South Carolina to grieve with “Miss Martha.” According to Mary, he had been a wedding gift from College President John Lycan Kirkpatrick to Martha. Mary writes that the older gentleman had accompanied her father during childhood, young-adulthood and even during when he joined the army in 1862. Of the relationship between this man and her family, Mary writes, ” I do not know how long he stayed with the family after the end of the war or where he went or how he knew that “Miss Martha” need him that day, but I do know that the meeting between those two—the proud reserved women and the ex-slave and friend who had learned of her sorrow and had come to comfort her left an indelible impression on my child-mind.” Perhaps the artifacts discovered beneath the Sparrow’s Nest holds answers as to that gentleman’s identity and his experiences being enslaved and freed by the Kirkpatrick-Sparrow family. In order to continue following the story of the Sparrow’s Nest’s purpose throughout the centuries, follow the blog-tag: “Sparrow” or the hashtag: “DavidsonHistoryMystery” on Instagram and Twitter.

Guest Blogger: Jalin Jackson, “I Don’t See Greek: Diagnosing Blindness and Redefining Inclusivity at Davidson College” Part 2

This is part two of a two-part post.

           Interestingly, this back-and-forth surrounding the black fraternity debate in 1989 was covered by a writer for the Charlotte Observer, Ricki Morrell. In her coverage, she mentions opposition within Davidson’s fraternities and dormitories against the idea of a black fraternity on campus.[7] In a short column commenting on Morrell’s piece, President of Patterson Court Council Bennett Cardwell sought to provide a clearer picture of where the Davidson student body generally was in terms of the debate. In a piece titled “Story Is One-Sided,” Cardwell identified Tom Moore as “a random senior” dissenter whose opinions did not “in any way represent those of the student body in general.”[8] Cardwell assured that the opposition to diversifying Patterson Court was much smaller than Morrell led everyone to believe; he even stated that many white students were in favor of the idea of a black fraternity.[9] Second, Cardwell rejected the notion that there were “white fraternities” at Davidson, assuring his audience that there were black members in the fraternities on campus.[10] At the time, the members in Davidson’s six fraternities comprised about sixty percent of the student body. If Cardwell was the voice of reason in this debate, then given the fact that the interest in diversifying Patterson Court persisted as time went on, why did it take until 2003 to bring any black fraternity to Davidson College?[11] Aside from later concerns of sustainability from Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc., the college still holds a large portion of that responsibility.[12] Some within the Davidson College community continued and continue to faithfully adhere to the inclusivity argument against diversification, reinforcing Davidson’s culture of color-blindness. Historically, when that argument did not work, some attempted to augment it by expressing concerns of the further fragmentation of the Davidson College community. These arguments lend themselves to the notion of minimal representation. If color-blindness has been Davidson’s modus operandi, the goal of minimal representation is Davidson’s subconscious impetus.

color photogrpah of 15 women of the AKA sorority in 2008

Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sigma Psi Chapter 2008


Minimal representation in this context refers to Davidson College’s tendency to strive for the bare minimum in terms of social representation so as to diversify and simultaneously be able to maintain color-blind tendencies as the institution evolves. That way, the college can comfortably fight for change and minimize social backlash on campus. The push for minimal representation is especially evident given Davidson’s decision to establish the BSC so early in the institution’s history of diversification, yet struggle with the diversification of Patterson Court for such a long time. The reluctance to establish any sorority on campus primarily due to the presence of eating houses also illuminates the desire for minimal representation. In a letter dated December 1,1997 and addressed to the President of Davidson College at the time, Robert F. Vagt, several members of the Executive Committee expressed why the college should not allow any sororities on campus. The committee stated their arguments clearly: sororities are organized around social exclusivity, eating houses are an inclusive system, and academic life would be adversely affected.[13] At this time, all of Davidson’s Patterson Court institutions were predominantly white and no sororities existed. The Executive Committee’s letter exposes the same trope evident in the 1989 black fraternity debate: the inclusivity argument, and other arguments to fall back on should the former fall through. Davidson reveals itself to be suspicious of diverse social forms and exposes its affinity for the status quo.

Insignia for sorority AKA with motto

Alpha Kappa Alpha Insignia


A status quo is not an inherently bad thing. However, when we consider Davidson College’s constant need and desire for structural improvement, using color-blind materials is not the way to go. In fact, it is a contradiction. Color-blindness has to be removed from Davidson’s toolbox if we are to improve this institution. If Davidson directly or indirectly utilizes blindness as a tool for its enhancement, nothing is actually ameliorated, hence the status quo. Some at Davidson College still pride themselves on their color-blind ideologies, and other types of blindness as well. Color-blind arguments coupled with minimal representation kept black fraternities off of Davidson’s campus until the early to mid 2000’s. The 1989 black fraternity debate and later opposition against sororities are prime examples of the resilience color-blind ideologies have had within the Davidson College community. That is to say that Davidson College, as the institution exists now, has been compromised, just like the United States. Nevertheless, Davidson’s flaws are to be neither accepted nor celebrated unless the status quo is something we enjoy seeing.


Bibliography, Part Two

[7] Ricki Morrell. “Black Davidson Students Push For Black Fraternity,” The Charlotte Observer, Article, November 21, 1989.

[8] Bennett S. Cardwell, “The Story Is One-Sided,” 1989.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ricki Morrell. “Black Davidson Students Push For Black Fraternity,” November 21, 1989.

[12] Lincoln Davidson, “Alpha Phi Alpha marks 10 years at Davidson College,” November 3, 2013.

[13] Executive Committee, “Sororities at Davidson College,” Letter to College President, December 1, 1997.


Guest Blogger: Jalin Jackson, “I Don’t See Greek: Diagnosing Blindness and Redefining Inclusivity at Davidson College”

This is part one of a two-part post; the second post will be on Wednesday of this week.

I am a Class of 2019 Africana Studies and Latin American Studies double major at Davidson College from Camden, New Jersey. My interests range from the social and cultural intersections of the African diaspora and Latin America to the political and linguistic disparities between the two.

In the United States, many criticize the system for its failure to provide change inclusive enough to satisfy diverse populations. This system, whose evolutionary apparatus has been a combination of racism and white supremacy, cannot improve as long as its inconsistencies remain unchanged or are changed without its history in mind. In my opinion, Davidson College has done a decent job at separating itself as an institution from the greater system within which it exists. While the college has undone most discriminatory practices, blindness has been a leading instrument in the college’s push for improvement throughout its recent history. A system built on blindness – whether color-blindness, class-blindness, or any other form – is as flawed a system as one built on racism. This is not because one or the other is more prone to oppression, but instead because blindness does not work toward its own eventual goal of undoing structural oppression and underrepresentation. Davidson’s present reality of incomplete social inclusivity and color-blind ideologies can be attributed to its history of color-blindness as an apparatus of change in Davidson’s social realm. Contradictions of inclusivity within Patterson Court organizations, arguments against the diversification of Greek life, and minimal representation on campus have prolonged Davidson’s improvement historically.

Davidson College’s preference for color-blindness does not mean it is incapable of making anti-racist decisions. In terms of black student admission, Davidson had its first African American alumnus in 1968 with Wayne Crumwell, officially admitting him in 1964. This goes against the common narratives of near universal southern pushback against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that called for scholastic integration.

Black and white photograph of Wayne Crumwell, portrait style, 1968

Wayne Crumwell, Class of 1968


Just five years earlier, the Davidson College Board of Trustees insisted that 1959 was not a time when the “admission of Negroes” was in the “best interest of the College, of the Church, of the Students, or of any Negroes.”[1] In that same vein, in a pre-1964 majority report by a few higher-ups at Davidson College, there were some interesting arguments against the admission of African Americans to Davidson College. These ranged from how the college would have to “lower the quality of its education” to how the admission of blacks would encourage miscegenation, which was outlawed at the time.[2] Yet, as soon as the civil rights law compelled Davidson to comply with integration, the college as an institution did so relatively quickly. In addition to that, by 1970 the Black Student Coalition was founded on campus.[3] Davidson’s speed in diversifying its student body and providing representation for its minority student demographic are evidence of the college’s ability to push toward anti-racism and cultural representation despite strong opposition within the community. However, following the increasing level of diversity on campus in terms of gender and race, Davidson began to favor a color-blind ideology that guided decisions that would soon alter the appearance and atmosphere of the space.

By 1989, Davidson College had six white fraternities in Patterson Court. In that same year, a student debate regarding whether to introduce a black fraternity to Patterson Court surfaced. On October 25, 1989, a white Davidson College senior named Tom Moore wrote a piece responding negatively to one written by a Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., interest group a few weeks earlier. In his piece, Moore argued that a black fraternity “would segregate the campus” and that assimilation is the “best way to improve lines of communication”; he even contends that a black fraternity sounds like “the rationale for the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine” and that minorities on campus should just assimilate because Davidson’s predominately white social circles reflect the social reality of America.[4] Although radical, Moore’s comments illuminate the basis of the inclusivity argument that: existing social organizations at Davidson are already inclusive and the exclusivity of a different organization would fragment the campus. This inclusivity argument, as one will see, goes on to repeat itself throughout Davidson’s evolution. In response to Moore’s statements, black junior Darry Strickland published in the November 1, 1989 edition of the Davidsonian what would be the opposite pole of the debate. Strickland called out Moore on his “ethnocentric attitude” and communicated how black males at the college were forced to assimilate into white fraternities if they wished to participate in Greek life on campus at all.[5] Even though white fraternities at Davidson College were not allowed to racially discriminate explicitly at the time, there is a reason that black male students interested in Greek life were not joining these fraternities at the college en masse. The organizations may have been inclusive on paper, but not diverse enough. They maintained their inclusivity, neglecting why it failed in the diversification of white organizations. Although this contradiction of inclusivity was not necessarily the fault of the existing organizations on campus, Moore failed to acknowledge what black students wanted.

black and white photograph Melissa Givens, portrait style, 1989

Melissa Givens, Class of 1989


Black senior Melissa Givens makes this clear in the November 1, 1989 edition of the Davidsonian as well, providing more insight into how blacks fared in the Davidson social scene. In her commentary, she calls on Moore and the Davidson College community repeatedly to “accept and celebrate the differences” as opposed to recognizing them without their celebration, as the college had been doing.[6] In other words, some within the Davidson College had been viewing differences as divisive, including Moore. I agree with Givens that assimilation silences those voices that are not a part of the majority. Her argument combats color-blindness directly and is one of the earlier moments of analysis identical to mine.


Bibliography, Part One

[1] Davidson College Board of Trustees. Meeting Summary, 1959.

[2] Davidson College Admissions Committee, “The Majority Report of the Admission of Negroes to Davidson College.”

[3] “Black Student Coalition House Showcases New Student-Painted Mural,” Davidson College News, September 11, 2013.

[4] Tom Moore. “Here’s how a black fraternity could be a bad idea,” Davidsonian Column, October 25, 1989.

[5] Darry Strickland. “A black fraternity is not an insidious plot,” Davidsonian Column, November 1, 1989.

[6] Melissa Givens. “A frat is not separate but equal—just different,” Davidsonian Column, November 1, 1989