Digitization and Historical Context: Analyzing Trustee and Faculty Minutes

The archives hold several bound volumes of minutes from the meetings of the trustees and faculty of Davidson College. The trustees met at irregular intervals throughout the nineteenth century, beginning in 1836, as they discussed monetary issues, student deportment, lack of students, faculty turnover, and the strain imposed by Civil War drafting and rationing. The trustee meetings initially took place at local churches, with several of the trustees representing the various presbyteries that supported the nascent Davidson College.

Though Davidson College classes officially began in 1837, no faculty meeting minutes were kept until 1845. Members of the faculty met weekly between 1845 and 1921 and discussed issues similar to those of the trustees. In 1921, the meetings moved to monthly sessions, meaning there are significantly fewer volumes found for later years.

The first volume of Faculty Minutes for Davidson College also contains the minutes of the Trustees of the Western Carolina College between May 1821 and June 1824. The North Carolina General Assembly authorized the establishment of a college in 1820, subsequently appointing trustees to oversee its development. These trustees met for three years, but were ultimately unable to raise sufficient funds for the effort—though this later gave way to the establishment of Davidson College.

The trustee and faculty minutes contain information about college assets, personal finances, student grades and conduct, curriculum development, and admissions policies. For this reason, minutes taken at these meetings typically have some restrictions to protect the privacy of those involved. Davidson’s trustee minutes have access restrictions for 75 years. There are no restrictions on nineteenth century faculty minutes. The Archives & Special Collections department is making a concerted effort to digitize these volumes, beginning with meetings that shed light on Davidson College’s relationship to and within the slave system, as well as systemic racial discrimination.

One of the most enlightening faculty minutes accounts dates to December 27, 1853, stating:

                “The Faculty having heard that a fight had occurred on the 26th inst., at the lower store, between some of the students and some men from the country, proceeded to investigate the facts in the case. They found as follows:

                That there was a wagon near the store, and several negroes, together with two young men by the name of Washam, near it. Two students, Robert A. H. Neagle and H.T. McDugald, in passing the wagon, accosted some of the negroes, telling them to take off their hates, and on their declining to do so, Neagle knocked off the hat of one of them; these two students then passed on into the store, where they met more negroes whom they accosted in the same way and McDugald, with a stick in his hand, knocked off the hat of one of them.

                The two Washams followed them into the store and asked them if the store belonged to them, and repeated the question when, after some dispute and rough language between the parties, the students came back upon the College Hill to get help and several other students went down and among them, J.T. Kell, who, when he entered the store before the other, enquired for the man (or as some would have it, the negro) who would not take off his hat.

                 One of the Washams came out of the counting room, and replied to him. Neagle and McDugald came in after Kell, and after some words passing between the parties, one of the Washams hit Neagle and then a voice was heard from outside of the door to Kell – “hit him,” and he knocked down Washam with a club which he had brought with him, and Neagle either jumped on him or kicked him in the side, when the other Washam attempted to interfere, but the parties were separated.”

The three named students responsible for the degrading altercation were suspended from the college by the faculty for the remainder of the term the following month.

 

This image is a scan of the first page of the faculty minutes from December 27, 1853. The typescript appears in the main body of the posting.

Davidson College faculty minutes from December 27, 1853.

 

This image is a scan of the second page of the faculty minutes from December 27, 1853. The typescript appears in the main body of the posting.

Davidson College faculty minutes from December 27, 1853, continued.

 

There were also several recorded instances of blackface during the Civil War period. One of these instances was discussed by the faculty on February 19, 1863:

               “Mr. W.H. Scott (pupil in the preparatory department) had been seized by Messrs. Moore, Knox, Glover, Troy, and Watts, and blacked and otherwise insultingly treated by them, and Mr. H.W. Scott, brother of the aforesaid Scott, had been beaten by Mr. Troy for resenting the treatment that his brother had received.

                The two messrs. Scott being called before the Faculty, H.W. Scott was found to be very much bruised about the face, and had evidently been very seriously beaten. Mr. W.H. Scott testified that he went into Mr. Glover’s room on Wednesday night, and having been there a very few minutes, he was seized from behind by Mr. Moore and thrown on the bed and held there by Moore, Knox, Watts, and Glover, and that Mr. Troy blacked his face with soot and tallow. That after he was released, an attempt was made by the same students to make a negro boy kiss him.

                H.W. Scott, being asked the cause of the fight between himself and Mr. Troy, said that he was not present when his brother was so much insulted, but that he went to Mr. Gibson’s room immediately after he heard it, and that Mr. Troy was there’ that Mr. Troy said to him “You ought to have been around to see us black Heathly,” and that he replied that if he had been there it would not have been done without a fight, and that we would cut anyone with his knife who attempted to black him. That Mr. Troy then called him a “damned South Carolina son of a bitch,” and that he (Scott) struck him, and the fight ensued.

                Mr. Troy was called before the Faculty and frankly acknowledged all that he had done and said, which was substantially the same testimony given by the Scotts; and said moreover, that the Scotts had been guilty at various times of stealing wood and other things, and that the blacking was intended to drive them out of the West Wing. That he could prove that they had been guilty of theft, though he had not seen them himself in the act, that could mention those who had, and that he was ready to prove it.”

 

This image is a scan of the first page of faculty minutes from February 1863. The typescript is in the main body of the text.

Davidson College faculty minutes from February 19, 1863.

 

This image is a scan of the second page of faculty minutes from February 1863. The typescript is in the main body of the text.

Davidson College faculty minutes from February 19, 1863, continued.

               

In this case, the students were not initially suspended or expelled from the college for their behavior, but they were publicly admonished. Nearly one month later, on March 10, 1863, the faculty voted on a proposition to make “any student who disguises himself by blacking his face, altering his dress, or by any other means, guilty of a serious offence liable to immediate dismission from College.”

Although these striking accounts occasionally seem vague, we can learn a lot from what language is used, from what information is left out, and comparing these accounts to other records left from the period in question. Making these primary sources publicly available allows researchers to make those comparisons and bring often untold stories to light, while also revealing the historical roots of modern discrimination.

Celestial objects, space, and the physical universe as a whole.

The title of this post is from the Oxford Living Dictionary’s definition of astronomy, and this week, millions of people were contemplating “celestial objects.” On Monday, August 21 from 2:30 pm until 3 pm, Davidson hosted its own Eclipse Party on the Chambers lawn.

Davidson Eclipse Party brochure 2017

While Davidson did not experience a total eclipse, the moon still provided intriguing crescent-shaped shadows filtered through the trees.

Shadows on the patio in front of E.H. Little Library

Patio in front of E.H. Little Library

Thanks to Kelly Denzer, Electronic Resources Librarian, for sharing this image.

With the shifting light, several people in the crowd alluded to the variance in the shadows and the speed of those same shadows. With a little help from library resources, it was determined that in 1824, Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel introduced one of the techniques to calculate that speed and that technique is still used today.

Wondering about Davidson students and when they began studying astronomy: 1837. Astronomy was a required course and was part of the original college curriculum. In 1837, it was taught by the first President of the College, Robert Hall Morrison.

Deans of Students

For the first decades of the college, faculty carried not only teaching duties but also most administrative tasks as well. They took on being bursar and librarian, registrar and supervisor of buildings and grounds. Over time, the college began hiring staff to relieve faculty of extra duties but the transition went slowly.

In 1920, the college created the first Dean of Student position and it was filled by a faculty member.  Mark Edgar Sentelle, Davidson class of 1894, continued to teach religion and philosophy classes for the 21 years (1920-1941) he served as Dean. Initially, the Student Life office consisted of the Dean and a secretary, Dorothy Finlayson, he shared with the college treasurer. Sentelle joined the faculty in 1903. Fellow professor, Ernest Beaty described his career in the September 1941 Alumni Journal:

Mark Sentelle in 1922

Mark Sentelle in 1922

As a member of the faculty, he soon evidenced such sense of judgment in dealing with men that this special talent was immediately put into use. President Henry Louis Smith (1901-1912) requested Dr. Sentelle to handle student absences, and this he did for some time, drawing up absence regulations under which the College functioned for years. In 1910 President Smith again turned to Dr. Sentelle, asking him to  head up a committee on supervision of scholarship. Dr Sentelle soon had in effect regulations which served notice that Davidson College would not give indefinite residence to students who were not keeping up the Davidson standard of work, whether failure to do so were due to an unfortunate lack of preparation or to culpable slothfulness.

Beaty went on to note that it was

natural then, that upon Dr. Sentelle’s election as Dean in 1920, the enforcement of both absence and supervision regulations should be centered in his office. Hence, year after year, the big ‘Doom Book of Absences’ has reposed in the Dean’s office, and excuses of infinite variety have been poured into his ever receptive, but not always ‘acceptive’ ears.

Bailey in 1949 with a student. It is not clear if any of this books on his desk is a "Doom Book of Absences."

Bailey in 1949 with a student. It is not clear if any of this books on his desk is a “Doom Book of Absences.”

Upon his retirement in 1941, another active faculty member took on the role of Dean of Students. John Crooks Bailey, Davidson class of 1920, continued his courses in Greek and Religion during his 2 tenures as Dean (1941-1954, 1958-1961). The office he inherited had focused heavily on discipline and regulations and had consisted of the Dean and a secretary. Bailey began to interact with the social side to students as well.

By 1941, the college had a YMCA secretary, a new college union, and later a chaplain. Bailey was also a member not only of the honorary fraternities Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Kappa but of a social fraternity Kappa Alpha.  Ernest Beaty deened him qualified to be a dean because of his “unusual alertness in the observation of facts and persons and a marvelous keenness in analyzing them” along with “a fine vein of humor, that saving virtue which makes life attractive” ( and presumably visits to the Dean’s office a little less uncomfortable).

 

Dean Bailey provides a good example of how his office dealt not only with students but also with their parents. In a 3-page memo to parents and guardians of Davidson Freshman written in August 1960, he included “A Word to Mothers” admonishing them to “let your son and his roommate have the satisfaction of doing their own unpacking unsupervised and let them arrange things in the way they want them. Their arrangement may be different from what yours would be, but they are the ones who will be living there.”  He further noted — with underlining,

Our experience leads us to think that most boys are secretly, if not openly, embarrassed when their mothers insist on staying in the dormitory rooms to supervise unpacking and to arrange the rugs, etc.

Dean's warning to mothers.

Dean’s warning to mothers.

Presumably, fathers in 1960s were less interested in their offspring’s accommodations.

Serving between Bailey’s years was a familiar Davidson face, Samuel R. Spencer, class of 1940 and future president. Spencer had already served on the faculty in 1941-1943 as a professor of military science. He kept up the dual faculty-dean role by teaching in the history department while Dean.

Sam Spencer as Dean of Students with President John Cunningham in the background.

Sam Spencer as Dean of Students with President John Cunningham in the background.

The next Dean of Students broke the mold by not being a Davidson graduate (Furman instead) and not teaching. Instead, Richard Burts (1961-1970) spent his 9 years solely as a dean and then became college registrar from 1970 to 1985. During his tenure, the Dean of Students office added an assistant to the dean and advisor to fraternities, extending the social role of the office.

Dean Burts engaging with students

Dean Burts engaging with students

When he started as Dean, all his students looked like the young men in the photo but shortly after his arrival, the first African and then African-American students joined the student body adding the issues of integration to his work.

William Holt Terry, Davidson class of 1954 replaced Burts and added the challenges of co-education to those of integration. In 1977, the office added Sue Ross as the Assistant Dean of Students. Her successor, Paula Moore, hired in 1985 was the first black assistant dean.  During his tenure (1971-1994), the Dean of Students office expanded to oversee Residence Life, Careers, College Union, Chaplain’s office, Student Health and Counseling, and Community Service. By 1994, the Student Life had 43 full and part-time staff covering student — and still parental– activities and concerns.

Counseling Will Terry style -- well before cell phones and Facebook.

Counseling Will Terry style — well before cell phones and Facebook.

 

Dean of Students Office -deans and administrative assistants, c1983

Dean of Students Office -deans and administrative assistants, c1983

Tom Shandley, the most recent Dean of Students came in 1994 and will retire in 2017. Like Will Terry, Shandley has seen the issues Student Life faces expand along with more staff. Mark Sentelle, even as a philosophy professor, likely never dreamed of addressing gender-integrated housing, therapy animals, sexual harassment policies or nutrition guidance.  All the deans have met with students over academic pressure, alcohol violations, health concerns, and roommate conflicts. Ironically, even as colleges have stepped back from “in loco parentis” roles, the work of the Dean of Students has expanded. Students face a more complex world and expect that co-curricular activities will enhance the academic experience.  Sadly, few records remain for the earliest deans ( the Doom books are long gone) but the records the archives does hold await exploration and discovery. The history of Davidson’s  six Deans reveal the changing roles college governance, the changing nature of college students, and the context of college experience in American culture.

Issues change but face to face meetings remain constant.

Issues change but face to face meetings remain constant. Tom Shandley with SGA President Warren Buford

Revolution, 1967 and 2017

Revolution 2017, a multidisciplinary campus-wide initiative that focuses on revolution, broadly conceived, marks the 100th anniversary year of the Bolshevik Revolution. As we begin a year of courses and events related to revolution, let’s look back at a campus visit from a Russian embassy staff member 50 years ago.

In February 1967, Davidson invited Dr. Alexi Stepunin, then first secretary of the cultural division of the Soviet Embassy in D.C. to campus. In many ways, Dr. Stepunin’s visit was revolutionary – he was an campus to discuss the Russian Revolution, and his presence at Davidson was in opposition to the North Carolina Speaker Ban.

An article in the February 3, 1967 Davidsonian announces Stepunin's visit.

An article in the February 3, 1967 Davidsonian announces Stepunin’s visit.

The ban, in effect from 1963 to 1968, prevented state supported colleges and universities from inviting speakers who were “known member[s] of the Communist Party;” “known to advocate the overthrow of the constitution of the United States or the state of North Carolina;” had plead “the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States in refusing to answer any question, with respect to communist or subversive connections, or activities, before an duly constituted legislative committee, any judicial tribunal, or any executive of administrative board of the United States or any state.” While Davidson College, as a private college, was not subject to this law, Davidson faculty members strongly opposed the law and made their opinions publicly known by authoring a position paper.

Draft of the Speaker Ban as H.B. 1395, 1963.

Draft of the Speaker Ban as H.B. 1395, 1963.

This paper, put out by the Davidson College AAUP (American Association of University Professors) stated why the faculty felt the ban would have a negative impact even on schools not bound to follow it:

“Our opposition to this law is permanent, and it is strictly a grass-roots operation… it needs to be stressed in this connection that a great part of our concern lies in the fact that this law endangers the quality of private institutions as well as public ones. To take Davidson College as a case in point, her vitality depends in a number of ways upon the quality of the state University, as is evidenced by the fact that nearly a fourth of our faculty has advanced degrees from this University.”

Statement before the Governor's Commission on the Speaker Ban Law, Davidson College AAUP, September 9, 1965.

Statement before the Governor’s Commission on the Speaker Ban Law, Davidson College AAUP, September 9, 1965.

The Davidson faculty had other concerns besides the special relationship between UNC and Davidson – as the statement goes on to explain:

“The law is harmful to the University in another way as well. The free flow of ideas is inherently bound up in the very functioning of the University. The law does inhibit the free flow of ideas, else there would have been no reason for its passage in the first place. Thus the second hard fact of the matter is that the law not only demoralizes the faculty; it directly impedes the efficiency of their educational effort.”

Jesse Helm's reaction to the Davidson AAUP statement,

Jesse Helm’s reaction the conversations going on at Davidson, January 26, 1965.

Jesse Helms, then Executive Vice President at WRAL-TV and later a long-serving U.S. Senator, did not much like the rumblings emanating from Davidson College. He focused one of his WRAL-TV editorials on the faculty:

“Something over a week ago, there came from the campus of Davidson College the beginning gurgles of what no doubt will shortly be a river of pious nonsense swirling around the ankles of North Carolina legislature. The one-track minds of another group pf college professors had produced another resolution condemning the state law which bans communist speakers from state-owned college campuses… Davidson College was a poor place for this season’s flood of screwball resolutions to begin.”

It was into this environment that Alexi Stepunin stepped when he visited Davidson early in 1967. His main address while on campus discussed the 50th anniversary of the Russian Revolution and provided a “historical outline” of the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1967.

The February 10, 1967 issue of The Davidsonian covered Stepunin's visit in three short stories on the front page.

The February 10, 1967 issue of The Davidsonian covered Stepunin’s visit in three short stories on the front page.

We too will be looking back at 1917 this year, as well as many other revolutions before and since as the Revolution 2017 initiative spans across multiple courses and public events. May the courage of the 1960s Davidson faculty in defending the “free flow of ideas” within education guide our actions this year!

Panoramic Views

This week’s mail brought a new gift to the Archives — panoramic photographs from 1943 of a class of airmen taking training at Davidson College. They were class 7 of the Army Special Training Program (ASTRP). We can only identify one of the men in the photograph but we have the names of all the men who participated in the training courses.

William Randolph is on the front row, fifth from the right.

William Randolph is on the front row, fifth from the right.

The photos are in good condition but showing one of the hazards of oversize photographs – some fold lines.  We are grateful to have these photos as we do not have much documentation for the Army trainees who spent came to campus for 12 week sessions. Some of their courses were taught by Davidson faculty, others by military personnel.

The earliest panoramic photograph in our collection dates from 1917.

Davidson student body in 1917

Davidson student body in 1917.

We haven’t done a headcount to see if all 394 students made it to the photo shoot that day. The buildings behind the students include Old Chambers and the YCMA/Morrison Hall. Both buildings are gone from campus. The camera technology of the era distorts the geography but still gives a good sense of the look of the college.

Most of our panoramic photos come from the 1917-1929 period and many of them are of student-soldiers.

G Company of the Davidson's ROTC students, pose for a picture in uniform in front of their tents at Camp McClellan in Alabama.

G Company of the Davidson’s ROTC students, pose for a picture in uniform in front of their tents at Camp McClellan in Alabama in 1923.

We have more images of SATC and ROTC activities through yearbooks and student scrapbooks taken both on campus and at summer camps.

Our one athletic panoramic was made off-campus – at a college with a larger stadium. The original image isn’t clear enough to read all the information on the scoreboard beyond the advertisement for the Howard Theater.  The team played games at Georgia Tech, Richmond, Va, Greenville, SC and at Wearn field in Charlotte – any guesses which place this is?

Varsity football team in 1921.

Varsity football team in 1921.

The oldest of the panoramics in our collection is from 1955.

Davidson students and faculty on 8 March 1955.

Davidson students and faculty on 8 March 1955.

If everyone is present, there are 845 students and 63 faculty arranged in front of the Chambers Building. College staff are not included in the photograph.  One year later, and one woman could have been included as a faculty member — Carolyn MacBrayer.  It’s hard to imagine such a formal portrait today of students and faculty -the number of ties worn regularly to campus has dropped considerably in the last decades.  Even with ties and suits, today’s wide-angle lens would capture find a much less homogeneous group.

 

Salade Niçoise

It’s time for another Recipe from the Archives – summer salad edition! This week’s recipe is Dr. Catherine Slawy-Sutton’s Salade Niçoise, from Great Expectations: The Davidson College 1990-1991 Office Support Staff Cookbook.

The cover of

The cover of Great Expectations: The Davidson College 1990-1991 Office Support Staff Cookbook.

As mentioned in the “Better Than the M & M’s Pimento Cheese” post, the Office Support Staff was born out of an earlier group known as The Chambermaids – a reference to the statues on Chambers Building, where most of the administrative staff worked, and a reference to the fact that the offices were almost entirely staffed by women. The Chambermaids, renamed the Office Support Staff (OSS) in 1982, was aimed at fostering professional development, advocating for needed changes on behalf of staff, and providing opportunities for social engagement. During the 1990-1991 academic year, the OSS compiled Though Great Expectations: The Davidson College 1990-1991 Office Support Staff Cookbook as a fundraiser. Recipes were solicited from across all areas of campus.

Members of Office Support Staff in Fall 1989. 1st row: (from left to right) Jeanne Mandt, Jane Biggerstaff, Judi Murphy, Ann Callahan, Pat Snow, Mary Wilson, Barbara Mayer, Pat Richart, Mittie Wally; 2nd row: (from left to right) Pat Gardner, Mary Mack Benson, Glenda Erwin, Kristi Mayhew, Cheryl Branz, Jean Martin, Ethel Black, Katrina French, Frances White; 3rd row: (from left to right) Diann Cavin, Gail Hoke, Aileen Vinson, Harriet Kessler, Sara Paige Lewis, Barbara Carmack, Pat Burgess, Frances McCorkle, Jo Archie, Joan Franz, Gail Sloop, Brenda King, Sarah Jackson.

Members of Office Support Staff in Fall 1989. First row, from left to right: Jeanne Mandt, Jane Biggerstaff, Judi Murphy, Ann Callahan, Pat Snow, Mary Wilson, Barbara Mayer, Pat Richart, and Mittie Wally. Second row: Pat Gardner, Mary Mack Benson, Glenda Erwin, Kristi Mayhew, Cheryl Branz, Jean Martin, Ethel Black, Katrina French, and Frances White. Third row: Diann Cavin, Gail Hoke, Aileen Vinson, Harriet Kessler, Sara Paige Lewis, Barbara Carmack, Pat Burgess, Frances McCorkle, Jo Archie, Joan Franz, Gail Sloop, Brenda King, and Sarah Jackson.

The recipe I chose to make, Salade Niçoise, was submitted by Catherine Slawy-Sutton, Professor of French & Francophone Studies at Davidson. Born in Angoulême, France and raised in Dakar, Senegal, Catherine received a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Nice and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Indiana University, Bloomington. She began working at Davidson College as Visiting Lecturer in 1980, moving to Assistant Professor in 1985, Associate Professor in 1991, and Professor in 1999. Catherine is married to recently retired French & Francophone Studies Professor Homer Sutton (Class of 1971), and the two professors have accompanied Davidson students on several study abroad programs in France.

Catherine Slawy-Sutton in 1997, from that year's Quips and Cranks.

Catherine Slawy-Sutton in 1997, from that year’s Quips and Cranks.

Since Catherine studied in Nice, I assumed she’d know a good Salade Niçoise! I hadn’t yet made a salad for Recipes from the Archives, and this hearty provençal staple seemed like a perfect fit. As Catherine describes it in the Great Expectations cookbook, “This is a recipe for a consistent summer salad.”

Catherine

Catherine’s recipe for Salade Niçoise and “ze reeal French Salad Dressing” vinaigrette that accompanies it.

I purchased oil-packed tuna in order to get the best flavor, and used tomatoes recently gifted to me by Davidson’s Systems Librarian, Susan Kerr, who grew them in her home garden. With boiling the potatoes and hard boiling the eggs, the preparation time for the salad was a bit longer, but completing the recipe was very easy, and the results are delicious!

Salade Niçoise with vinaigrette on the side.

The finished Salade Niçoise, with vinaigrette on the side.

“It Hasn’t Been Exactly Easy”: Early Student Reflections on Integration at Davidson

In honor of Black History Month, this week’s blog focuses on the experience of first black students at Davidson College, from Benoit Nzengu’s admission in 1962 to the graduation of Denise Fanuiel in 1977, particularly through their own words and reflections. Last week’s post provided some background on the policies and attitudes surrounding integration at Davidson, from the mid-1950s until Fall 1962. For a broader view of black history in Davidson, check out the short documentary Always Part of the Fabric and its accompanying text supplement.

In Fall 1962, Benoit (Ben) Nzengu enrolled at Davidson College. Nzengu, the son of a Presbyterian minister, was educated in Kasha and Lubondai (Democratic Republic of Congo). Two of his teachers in medical programs were missionaries who had attended Davidson –  Dr. William Rule (Class of 1932) and Dr. Hugh Farrior (Class of 1949).  He moved to Kingsville, Texas in 1961 in order to attend the Presbyterian Pan American School and apply to colleges in the United States. Ben then spent the summer of 1962 studying at the Institute of Modern Languages in Washington, DC and taking a course at Howard University before being put forward for admission to Davidson by the Presbyterian Board of World Missions. Originally given the standing of “special student” (i.e., a student not in a regular four-year degree program), the Admissions Committee evaluated his record in May 1963 and determined that Nzengu should be admitted as a freshman for the following year. However, he graduated on time in 1966 due to taking summer courses, and went on to study medicine at the University of Brussels. Dr. Nzengu is now a surgeon in France.

Publicity shot of Ben Nzengu, 1962. The caption on the back of the photo reads: "“In background Belk Hall, Davidson’s largest dormitory. Ben lives on the 4th floor with J. Knox Abernethy, Jr., a senior and son of Rev. J.K. Abernethy…”

Publicity shot of Ben Nzengu, 1962. The caption on the back of the photo reads: ““In background Belk Hall, Davidson’s largest dormitory. Ben lives on the 4th floor with J. Knox Abernethy, Jr., a senior and son of Rev. J.K. Abernethy…”

Professor Dan Rhodes (Class of 1938, religion professor 1960-1984), who chaired the committee tasked with “dealing with Congolese students,” served as Nzengu’s faculty advisor. Special consideration was given to who should room with Nzengu; it was decided that Knox Abernethy (Class of 1963) was good choice, as the Board of World Missions advised against placing Nzengu in a room with a missionary’s son who had spent time in the Congo:

“We find it hard for the missionaries not to be too paternalistic. We feel that it is good that Benoit will be accepted for what his is now, rather than what may be known about him in the past in terms of his life and growth in the Congo; we think Benoit has what it takes to make the grade. We find that it is awfully hard for the Congo missionaries and their families not to always be thinking about our Congolese friends as they used to be rather than as they now are.” (Letter from George M. Cooley to Dan Rhodes, August 6, 1962)

In September 1962, then College President D. Grier Martin communicated with Charlotte movie theater owner Mike Kincey about whether Nzengu would be allowed to attend showings of films at one of the three theaters owned by his company. Martin’s letter spells out how difficult dealing with segregation in Charlotte and its surrounding areas must have been for Nzengu:

“It occurred to me that an exception might be made at one or more theaters if this boy were accompanied by at least two of our Davidson students who would agree to sit on either side of him so that no person who might object to sitting by a colored person would have this happen.”

Martin’s letter to Professor Dan Rhodes on September 17, 1962 about the protocol for Nzengu’s attending movies starkly demonstrates the lengths Nzengu had to go through to avoid humiliation or violence while participating in activities that his fellow Davidson students could do with ease.

President Martin's letter to Dan Rhodes, communicating his conversation with theater owner Mike Kincey, September 17, 1962.

President Martin’s letter to Dan Rhodes, communicating his conversation with theater owner Mike Kincey, September 17, 1962.

Being able to participate in leisure activities like other Davidson students did remained an issue – as Rhodes commented May 8, 1981 Davidsonian article by Minor Sinclair and Vince Parker: “‘It took us some time for real non-segregation to penetrate all fibers of the College and community. It’s the little things – like being able to get a cup of coffee, or to use a public restroom, or get a haircut – that makes a difference and that are so hard to grow into,’ [Religion Professor Dan] Rhodes added.”

Archival records indicate that Ben Nzengu was in regular contact with the Board of World Missions, and that he was also under a microscope in many ways. Newsweek sent a reporter to cover his experience at Davidson, The Charlotte News ran a story on his adjustment to college, and the Davidson College Public Relations office took several publicity photos.

Bill Godwin's Charlotte News story on Ben Nzengu, October 8, 1962.

Bill Godwin’s Charlotte News story on Ben Nzengu, October 8, 1962.

The same week that The Charlotte News reported that “Ben hopes to study hard and make lots of new friends,” Nzengu received some hate mail. President Martin’s response to Dan Rhodes, who had reported the incident, notes that the College President was “surprised only that this hasn’t happened earlier.” President Martin was also receiving hate mail during this time period, primarily from alumni who found integration repugnant.

President Martin's response to Dan Rhodes, October 3, 1962.

President Martin’s response to Dan Rhodes, October 3, 1962.

In April 1963, the United States Information Agency’s H.S. Hudson wrote Robert J. Sailstead (then Davidson’s Director of Public Relations) on the subject of doing “a brief picture story on Mr. Nzengu” for the July issue of Perspectives Americaine and American Outlook, published by the Information Agency in Leopoldville and Accra, respectively:

“In general, we want coverage demonstrating Nzengu is accepted by his fellow students, participates in college life, and demonstrates that he is satisfied with being in Davidson. If he is also accepted by the townspeople, then shots to this effect would be very useful.”

In Fall 1963, Nzengu was joined by the second black student to enroll at Davidson college – Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, also from the Congo. After graduating from Davidson, Nzongola went on to get a master’s degree in Diplomacy and International Commerce from the University of Kentucky in 1968, and a Ph.D in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1975. Dr. Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja is currently a professor of African and Afro-American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He served as a visiting professor at Davidson for the Fall 1990 semester. While a student at Davidson, Nzongola, led “a fight for liberalizing church attendance policy”:

“At the time, all students were required to attend chapel two or three times a week, Sunday evening vespers, and Sunday morning church services – for which they had to have signed attendance slips. But students had only three choices for church attendance – the college Presbyterian church, the Methodist church, and the Episcopal church – all white middle class churches. There were two other churches in town, the black church and the poor white church, but neither of them counted towards the attendance requirement. ‘You couldn’t even go to the poor white Presbyterian church and get an attendance card,’ Nzongola recalls. ‘So I said, ‘I’m going to go to the black church, and you have to give me an attendance or not give me an attendance.’ So finally they relented, and eventually every student was able to get attendance in any church they wanted to attend.'” (“The Black Experience of Davidson” issue of the Davidson Journal, Fall 1990)

George Nzongola's senior portrait, 1967 Quips and Cranks.

George Nzongola’s senior portrait, 1967 Quips and Cranks.

Both Nzengu and Nzongola were on the soccer team, and Nzengu earned All-Southern Conference honors as a varsity soccer player.

In Fall 1964, the first black American students enrolled at Davidson, Leslie Brown ’69 and Wayne Crumwell ’68. Brown’s son, Demian Brown Dellinger (Class of 1998) was Davidson’s first black legacy student. The May 1, 1964 issue of The Davidsonian announced: “Two American Negroes Plan to Enroll This Fall: Three Boys Admitted, But Only Two Accept.” Former Student Body President, John Spratt (Class of 1964) was quoted as saying:

“This will be a terrific challenge for Davidson boys who profess beliefs in integration to act out their convictions. I hope there will not be a de facto segregation within the student body against these young men and that they will become full members of the student body in every sense of the word: intellectually, politically, and socially.”

News release announcing the first two American black students to enroll at Davidson

News release announcing the first two American black students to enroll at Davidson, Leslie Brown (Class of 1969) and Wayne Crumwell (Class of 1968).

During Homecoming 2012, the Offices of Multicultural Affairs and Alumni Relations sponsored a program called “Reflections: On 50+ Years of Integration,” featuring keynotes by Ben Nzengu ’66 and Leslie Brown ’69. The Davidsonian article covering the event noted: “Today, 24.2% of first-year students identify as students of color. Fifty years ago, there was only one student of color.” Nzengu reflected at the event: “How great a role did Davidson play in my life? To give you an idea, it was Davidson and its Board of Trustees who made it all happen in 1962, the year I was admitted here to integrate a southern white male college, in a year in which only 53% of the student body was in favor of having black students among them.”

Nzengu went on to talk about how his friendship with James Howard, a college employee, gave him insight into the life of black workers at the college and black life in town:

“…[Howard] was in charge of the Chemistry Building, and a very skilled worker. He was paid as a janitor. I know him well, and I used to go eat at his house, and go with him to his Church, across the railroad tracks. Life on the other side of the railroad tracks was a distinctive mark for the entire black community. One day, I had the following conversation with James. ‘The whites in this town would like us to stay in the same position working for them and doing the dirty work with low wages,’ he said. ‘The separation between our two communities is these railroad tracks; you cross it to go to work, you cross it again to go back to your house, and that’s it.’ ‘Before you came to Davidson,’ he added, ‘everyone in town knew that a Congolese student would be coming to Davidson, but the whites don’t like to see integration, and black people crossing those tracks permanently.'”

At that same event, Brown said of his experience:

“Coming to Davidson as one of the first black students in the time of rapidly emerging and advancing civil rights movement, I saw myself as having assumed the mantel of ‘firstness.’ By that I mean, I had embarked on the migration with a sense of mission, duty, and responsibility because I felt my successful migration has the potential to impact the nature and course of race relations and future opportunities for other blacks’ relationship with Davidson College and the broader issues of integration and opportunities for blacks in higher education and other arenas… I carried with me not only my own hopes and dreams but also those of my family, my community and my people.”

December 10, 1967 Davidsonian

December 1, 1967 Davidsonian article, “Negroes View Role: ‘Hasn’t Been Exactly Easy’,” from which this post gets its title.

The December 1, 1967 issue of The Davidsonian included an article by Bob Reid entitled “Negroes View Role: ‘Hasn’t Been Exactly Easy’,” which interviewed three of the five black students on campus at the time. This article provides insight into the students’ experience while they were living it:

Leslie Brown ’69: “It hasn’t been exactly easy… You realize just how different you are.”

Calvin Murphy ’70: “When I came here, I wanted to be identified as a Davidson College student. Now I want to be identified as a black Davidson College student.”

Wayne Crumwell ’68: “You can’t integrate fully… here or anywhere else. What good is integrating if the feeling behind it is not real.”

Brown: “You’ll never get a Negro to come here and enjoy it… unless you have a larger Negro student body. Sometimes we like to get away from white students and be with our brothers.”

Brown: “It is generally leading me to dedicate myself to working with black people, and help them realize that there is a pride in being black.”

When interviewed by Davidson student Steven Shames (Class of 1996) for Shames’ honors thesis, “A Good Faith Effort: Integration at Davidson College, 1958-1964,” Wayne Crumwell reflected honestly on his experience as a Davidson student:

“What did I do for Davidson? I graduated from Davidson. I consider that an accomplishment. And I consider that something that was done more for Davidson than for Wayne Crumwell. Davidson needed black students. Black students did not particularly need Davidson… The fact that I don’t feel particularly good about Davidson is something I’ve had to deal with… Would I opt to go to Davidson again? Hell, no! Why subject myself to that trauma during that time in one’s life when you have alternatives?”

Crumwell also discussed with Shames his resentment over how the college administration handled his entrance to Davidson: “It became clear that the college had put some thought into integrating from the perspective of preparing the white students for the experience. But they took for granted the fact that black students  would just be accepted in this environment.” He recalled on his return to campus for a talk in February 1993 that the then admissions director “told us we were here for the benefit of white students. They needed to be exposed. It would be an awesome service that we could perform for them.” (The Davidsonian, March 1, 1993)

Wayne Crumwell's senior portrait, Quips and Cranks 1968.

Wayne Crumwell’s senior portrait, Quips and Cranks 1968.

By 1966, Lefty Driesell (head basketball coach, 1960-1969) has begun to recruit black players for the basketball team. One recruit, Charlie Scott, visited campus with his parents and was taken to the Coffee Cup, a local segregated restaurant. Town legend hold that “the Coffee Cup incident” is the reason that Scott, previously interested in attending Davidson, went on to commit to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill instead: “Many feel the incident influenced Scott’s decision to attend the University of North Carolina and cost the Wildcats a national championship. According to Will Terry, ‘There was an awful lot of desegregation taking place that next afternoon.'” (Davidsonian, May 8, 1981) Leslie Brown also mentioned the Coffee Cup when discussing the town of Davidson’s reaction to black students at the Homecoming 2012 event: “To say you could comfortably sit and enjoy it and either establishment [M&M Soda Shop and Hattie’s] would be an overstatement. Then there was The Coffee Cup which served blacks on a takeout basis only.”

Another one of Lefty Driesell’s recruits who did enroll at Davidson was Mike Maloy (Class of 1970; did not graduate). Maloy remains one of the best basketball players to ever attend Davidson, and holds the distinction of being the first black member of a fraternity at the college. The March 2, 1967 issue of Jet magazine reported: “First Negro Accepted by White Frat In N.C.” when Maloy joined the Sigma Chi fraternity. The story included the total number of students of color in 1967: “The 1,000-member student body has seven Negroes.” Leslie Brown also became a member of Sigma Chi.

The 1969 team photo

The 1968-1969 basketball team – Mike Maloy is seated second from left.

In 1967, the Black Student Coalition was founded by these early black students, and remains an active campus organization. The BSC’s Statement of Purpose lists three main objectives:

“to establish and maintain a spirit of solidarity among the Black students of Davidson College,” “to create a sense of awareness within the framework of Davidson College with regards to the contributions of Black students, and specifically the Black Student Coalition, to the ‘total environment’ of Davidson College,” and “to serve as an active force ready and willing to support the Black citizens of the town of Davidson and to aid them in overcoming many of the problems which they now face.”

BSC Statement of Purpose

Black Student Coalition Statement of Purpose, 1967.

In April 1968, students picketed Johnson’s Barber Shop, a local black-owned segregated business. Johnson’s would serve black Davidson students, but not black townspeople during regular business hours. At the end of the month, a faculty and student committee formed to generate interest in “contributing to a fund to underwrite Mr. Ralph Johnson’s losses if he were to integrate his Barber Shop” reported to President Martin that they had approached Johnson and Hood Norton (who owned another segregated barber shop in town) and “regret to report to you that both Mr. Johnson and Mr. Norton were unreceptive to the entire idea, indicating that their strong intention to adhere to their current policies of segregation.” Dan Rhodes and Wayne Crumwell both served on this committee.

Letter from students to faculty and college administration asking for support in the boycott of Ralph Johnson's barber shop.

Letter from students to faculty and college administration asking for support in the boycott of Ralph Johnson’s barber shop.

Leslie Brown's letter asking the College to "not sanction by its silence this racist policy."

Leslie Brown’s letter asking the College to “not sanction by its silence this racist policy.”

Leslie Brown wrote a letter to President Martin informing him that Johnson had told him he would no longer serve black students in his barbershop, and urged Martin to have the College take an official stance. In an interview for the book One Town, Many Voices: A History of Davidson, North Carolina (Jan Blodgett and Ralph Levering, 2012), Max Polley (faculty in Religion, 1956-1993) recounted a conversation with Ralph Johnson, urging Johnson to integrate:

“When I talked to him, I said, ‘You know, now it’s time. Why don’t you go ahead and cut the hair of the little whites and blacks. It’s coming.’ And he said, ‘Dr. Polley, when I started this shop, the white people said you are only going to cut white people’s hair, and that’s what I did. Now the white people say we want you to cut black people’s hair also. When do I get to make a decision? I just have to do what the white people say.'”

Five weeks after the boycott began, Johnson opened his barbershop to customers of all races during regular business hours. Later that year, Hood Norton’s shop did the same. The barbershop boycott demonstrates that Crumwell and Brown were participating in activism around Davidson during the late 1960s.

By the early 1970s, there were 19 students of color enrolled at Davidson College. Howard J. Ramagli (Class of 1972) surveyed 15 of those students in 1971-1972 for his paper, “A Study of Attitudes & Procedures Related to the Black Experience at Davidson.” In particular, the anonymous comments Ramagli compiled on the topic of black identity in Davidson shed light on the experiences of these early black students:

“I hope I am considered a student at Davidson and not just a black student at Davidson.”

“It’s hard stepping into somebody else’s [the white’s] world, especially when they think their world is right.”

“You have to carry around your ID everywhere to show that you really go to school here. I can’t even get a check cashed or get into the gym without someone asking for my ID to prove who I am.”

“There is a loneliness you have to endure which is beyond any white definition of loneliness.”

“Being black at Davidson is going to homecoming and all the music is blue-grass.”

Davidson College became fully coeducational in the fall of 1973, when the first class of women freshmen enrolled. This first class included four black women: Julia Deck, Denise Fanuiel, Debra Kyle, and Marian Perkins. In 1977, Denise Fanuiel became the first black woman to graduate from Davidson College, as well as the first woman to be commissioned through the college’s ROTC program. Marian Perkins went on to graduate in 1979, and returned to campus to give a talk on her reflections for Black History Month in 1993, along with Wayne Crumwell ’68.

Denise Fanuiel's senior portrait in Quips and Cranks, 1977.

Denise Fanuiel’s senior portrait, 1977 Quips and Cranks.

Perkins’ portion of the speech received less coverage in The Davidsonian than Crumwell’s, but did include mention a brief mention of her student experience:

“While outward racism was not so apparent, subtle hints of its presence did not go unnoticed by her. Professors who encouraged her to join their departments so that they might have a black student in their ranks, and a theater production which depicted African Americans in a displeasing light made their points… Perkins used the final moments of her talk to encourage students [to] have deeply committed faith and to promote encouraged race relations. ‘I am deeply committed to my religion and don’t feel the need to judge failure and success using the normal rules.'”

Perkins later became an ordained Baptist minister, and still works with the Greater Fellowship Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia. Julia Deck and Debra Kyle withdrew from Davidson without graduating.

Marian Perkins' senior portrait, Quips and Cranks 1979.

Marian Perkins’ senior portrait, Quips and Cranks 1979.

25 years after Ben Nzengu enrolled at Davidson, he returned to campus for a reunion. A Charlotte Observer article by Pam Kelley, “Challenge of integration remains: Davidson’s first black student attends 25th class reunion” (April 20, 1991) covered the event: “Though aware he was making history, ‘I wasn’t concerned all the time,’ he said. ‘I was concerned with getting my work done.'” Kelley also quoted Anthony Foxx (Class of  1993): “‘I think the main difference between then and now,’ said Anthony Foxx, a black sophomore from Charlotte, ‘is we’ve known because of the people who’ve graduated for the last 20 years, that we can make it through.'”

The cover the Fall 1990 issue of the Davidson Journal: "

The cover the Fall 1990 issue of the Davidson Journal: “The Black Experience at Davidson.”

George Nzongola was interviewed for the Davidson Journal‘s “The Black Experience of Davidson” issue (Fall 1990), on his experiences as a Davidson student, and his thoughts on African-American studies as a professor in the field: “… I think it even more important that Davidson ought to do more to increase the number of African-American students and faculty. I mean this is an American college, and I’m kind of disappointed that after twenty-eight years of integration there are only some sixty black students or so in a student body of fifteen hundred.”

Similarly, Minor Sinclair and Vince Parker’s May 8, 1981 Davidsonian article, “Path of integration is slow and long, continues amid problems” called out the College and community on claiming Davidson has been integrated:

“Twenty years has passed since the College began  integration. In hindsight, integration appears as a process, a continuum of slow changes and protracted growing pains. In spite of a few volatile moments, the process ahs [sic] largely been one of gradual compromise within the system in ‘the Davidson way.’ Change has resulted. The College, once an all white institution, now claims one black professor and 45 black students. Yet, is Davidson integrated now? or is the process continuing? or has it been aborted?”

This blog, and the one that precedes it, are intended to shed light on the complex path to integration and the experiences of the first black students at one educational institution. While there is a wealth of material collected by the College Archives & Special Collections, there is also more to know and more to collect, particularly the reflections of the first women of color to attend Davidson. We welcome comments and questions, and seek to continue to learn and share that knowledge with the Davidson community and beyond.

“Thereby Hangs a Tale”: The Winding Path to Integration at Davidson

In honor of Black History Month, this week’s blog focuses on the history of integration at Davidson College, from the mid-1950s up until the admission of the first black student in 1962. Next week’s blog will focus on the experiences of those early black students at Davidson, particularly through their own words and reflections. For a broader view of black history in Davidson, check out the short documentary Always Part of the Fabric and its accompanying text supplement.

The Brown vs. Board of Education rulings in 1954 paved the way towards desegregation in public schools, and while Davidson is a private institution, the dialogue created by Brown vs. Board of Education began local conversations on integration. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg County school system began the process of desegregation in 1957; as the school system’s history page notes, “At the time, Charlotte was very much a segregated city, with black schools and white schools within the district. The schools reflected the larger social context in a city with no integrated hotels, restaurants, restrooms, churches, cemeteries or theaters.”

As articles and editorials in The Davidsonian demonstrate, campus opinions on integration varied widely from the mid-1950s until 1962 and beyond. In March 1956, Professor Cecil Kenneth Brown (Class of 1921; math and economics faculty, 1923-1957) gave a pro-segregation talk on campus entitled “The Southern Position with Respect to the Bi-Racial System” (later printed in the July 28, 1956 issue of The State, now Our State magazine, as “The White South: A Minority Group”).

Joe Bell's letter to the editor, January 17, 1958.

Joe Bell’s letter to the editor, January 17, 1958.

Two years later, student Joseph Bell (Class of 1960) wrote a letter to the editor in support of admitting black students, printed in the January 17, 1958 issue of The DavidsonianBell noted that “Davidson’s present segregated status has no support in the position of the Church, and it is inconsistent with the purposes of the school itself.”

In April 1958, the first known admissions inquiry was made on behalf of a potential black student. Frank E. Parker wrote a letter to Frederick W. Hengeveld (Class of 1918, Registrar and Director of Admissions, 1946-1967), requesting information on the college for his son. Parker wrote:

“We are Negroes – and ‘thereby hangs a tale.’ Our motives for seeking admission to your institution are not predicated upon any intent to establish a precedent, nor agitate the prevailing race patterns. We seek the quality training available from your school.”

Frank Parker, Sr.'s letter

Frank Parker, Sr.’s letter to Director of Admissions Frederick Hengeveld, from which the title of this post is taken.

Admissions Director Hengeveld directed the Parkers’ request and following application (in November 1958) to the Board of Trustees for a decision. The Board formed a special committee to “study the question of admitting black applicants” (Davidsonian article, February 17, 1998) but did not release a decision. Hengeveld responded to Frank Parker, Jr. on November 26, 1958:

“Since the Trustees have not taken any action which would authorize the admission of Negro students, and since we do not know when they will or whether they will take such action, we feel it is wise to advise you to make application to other institutions so that you may be sure of acceptance elsewhere.”

At their meeting on February 18, 1959 the Board of Trustees passed “The Majority Report of the Admission of Negroes to Davidson College,” based on the findings of the special committee. However, this statement was not released to the public until October 1959. An attachment to the report notes that the recommendation was modified to read:

“In the view of the request of the Education Committee with reference to the matter of the admission of Negroes, the college authorities responsible for admitting students be advised that it is the judgment of a majority of the Trustees that at this time the admission of Negroes is not in the best interest of the College, of the Church, of the Students, or of any Negroes who at this juncture would be admitted as students.”

The first page of the Trustees' 1959 "The Majority Report on the Admission of Negroes to Davidson College."

The first page of the Trustees’ 1959 “The Majority Report on the Admission of Negroes to Davidson College.”

In the meantime, The Davidsonian ran another editorial calling for a decision on the matter of integration. The March 6, 1959 article stated: “We think the time has come to end such ostrich-headed attitudes. Why not consider the possibility? Why not honestly try to find out what effects there might be if a qualified Negro student enrolled at the college?”

On October 6, 1959, then College President David Grier Martin (Class of 1932, College President 1958-1968) addressed the faculty and student body and announced the Board of Trustees decision:

“The Trustees decided that it was not in the best interest of the college to admit a Negro student at this time. Since this was not a change in the ‘unwritten’ policy which Davidson has been following, the majority of the Trustees felt it would not be necessary to make a public announcement.”

Two months later, segregationist and newspaper editor Thomas R. Waring gave an address to the student body of Davidson while at chapel. That week’s Davidsonian ran an interview with Waring in which he was asked: “What is your opinion concerning the integration of an institution such as Davidson College?” Waring responded: “I’d say this: you have a pretty good college now, why change it? You’d run the risk of losing North and South Carolina boys whose families oppose this thing, and contributors from Southern states would surely fall away.”

Waring also served on a panel at Davidson with Charles Jones of Johnson C. Smith University, a historically black university in Charlotte. The Davidsonian reported that Jones countered Waring’s comments by “point[ing] out that many things are denied the Negro which are a vital part of the Southern way of life – education, social rights, and other opportunities.”

That same week, faculty member William Gatewood Workman (psychology professor, 1951-1977)  moved for the faculty to conduct a vote on a statement of whether they supported integration, and whether to integrate now or in the future. The results of the faculty vote would be submitted to the Board of Trustees.

This memo records the number of faculty voting for each portion of the statement, and the number of those who abstained.

This memo records the number of faculty voting for each portion of the statement, and the number of those who abstained.

For the Board of Trustees meeting in February 1960, The Davidsonian created a special issue focused on the meeting and the issue of admitting black students. This issue included the results of poll conducted by Davidsonian staff, several letters to the editor, and a cartoon lampooning the values of the Presbyterian Church as practiced in a policy of segregation.

The February 16, 1960 "Trustee Special" issue of The Davidson ran the results of the student poll, with an editor's note stating that there were "numerous reports of ballot stuffing."

The February 16, 1960 “Trustee Special” issue of The Davidsonian ran the results of the student poll, with an editor’s note stating that there were “numerous reports of ballot stuffing” and that the staff had hesitated to print the results.

At the Feburary 1960 Trustees meeting, Henry Shue (Class of 1961) presented a petition signed by over 250 Davidson students, requesting that the Trustees reopen discussion on integration and further study the matter. Shue had also set up meetings with willing Trustees to discuss the students’ opinions on integration.

A year later, nine Davidson alumni serving as missionaries at the American Presbyterian Congo Mission sent a letter to President Martin, urging that the college consider admitting African students in order to train these students to become Presbyterian leaders in their own countries. This request aligned with the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.’s 1954 and 1960 proceedings, urging Presbyterian affiliated institutions to look into desegregation.

The Trustees discussed this request from the alumni missionaries in their February 1961 meeting, and made the decision to admit up to three Congolese students for the following year. The February 17, 1961 Davidsonian reported that when then Board of Trustees President J. McDowell Richards (Class of 1922) was asked whether “this action was ‘not inconsistent with the policy laid two two years ago’ when the board voted that ‘it is not in the best interests of Davidson College to integrate at this time,'” Richards responded, ‘”Perhaps it is an inconsistency…But the board felt it necessary to to back the Board of World Missions on this matter.”

Front page of the February 17, 1961 Davidsonian.

Front page of the February 17, 1961 Davidsonian: “Trustees Open College to Congolese Students.”

That same  issue also featured an article by student Tom Parker (Class of 1961), criticizing The Davidsonian‘s coverage of integration at the college:

“Two years ago the Davidson student body, assembled in chapel, applauded the statement ‘It is not in the interest of Davidson College to admit Negroes at this time.’ Last year, through a clearly worded petition, they expressed their desire that Davidson remain a segregated institution at least for the present time. Despite these setbacks, those on this campus who favor integration have renewed their efforts… it is interesting to consider the devices which they employ to gain their objectives, especially those which are used in an openly sympathetic newspaper (which nonetheless declares itself in its letterhead to be “The News and Editorial Voice of Davidson College.”)

Local criticism of the decision to integrate, an indication of the difficulties the potential international students from Africa would face once enrolled at Davidson, appeared in the March 3, 1961 Davidsonian:

An article in the March 3, 1961 Davidsonian, reporting on local businesses' reactions to the possibility of African students attending Davidson and frequenting their establishments: "Five Local Businesses 'Won't Serve Them'."

An article in the March 3, 1961 Davidsonian, reporting on local businesses’ reactions to the possibility of African students attending Davidson and frequenting their establishments: “Five Local Businesses ‘Won’t Serve Them’.”

After the Trustees decision, President Martin established a committee “dealing with Congolese students” and appointed faculty member Dan Rhodes (Class of 1938, religion professor 1960-1984) to chair it. The committee, comprised of faculty, students, and community members, was tasked with investigating potential issues Congolese students would face.

Letter from committee chair Dan Rhodes to the members of the committee detailing each sub-committee's assignments.

Letter from committee chair Dan Rhodes to the members of the committee detailing each sub-committee’s assignments.

Though the Trustees had voted to admit a limited number of Congolese students, no black students enrolled at Davidson for the 1961-1962 academic year. From the May 5, 1961 Davidsonian story, “Martin: ‘We Will Have No Congolese Next Fall'”:

‘”The Board of World Missions in Nashville tells me that our missionary group has assigned ten students – none to Davidson – for good reasons… The Board of World Missions will plan to send one to us when they have one they consider qualified.’ Davidson’s Congolese Committee will continue meeting in preparation for the future, Martin said.”

Students and faculty continued to probe the issue throughout the next academic year, with the faculty voting in January 1962 to urge “the Trustees of the College authorize the admission of qualified students of any race and nationality.”  The final tally of the faculty vote was 53 in favor and 14 against (1 abstention). Though the Trustees had voted to allow a limited number of students from the Congo, this decision still barred American black students from enrolling at Davidson.

The Davidsonian conducted another student opinion poll on integration, with then student body president, George Trask (Class of 1962), sending the results of the student poll to College President Martin for distribution to the Board of Trustees.

Trask's letter to President Martin, showing that 59% of the student body had responded to the poll, with 53% in favor of "the admission of qualified students of any race of nationality to Davidson College."

Trask’s letter to President Martin, showing that 59% of the student body had responded to the poll, with 53% in favor of “the admission of qualified students of any race of nationality to Davidson College.”

Armed with the faculty vote and a student opinion poll, both showing a campus majority favored integration, President Martin took the question of officially integrating the college, rather than allowing a small, capped number of students specifically from one African country to the Board of Trustees. On May 17, 1962, at their meeting the Trustees of Davidson College approved a resolution to open “the college to students regardless of race or nationality.” (The Davidsonian, May 18, 1962)

May 17, 1962 Trustees statement

A copy of the May 17, 1962 Trustees Resolution.

Front page of the May 18, 1962 Davidsonian, announcing that "Congolese students may enter in Sept."

Front page of the May 18, 1962 Davidsonian, announcing that “Congolese students may enter in Sept.” The top headline for that issue read, “Trustees Abolish Segregation Policy; Martin Reveals $835,000 Bequest.”

On the decision to integrate with international black students, rather than American students, professor Dan Rhodes recalled in an April 20, 1991 Charlotte Observer article by Pam Kelley, “Challenge of integration remains: Davidson’s first black student attends 25th class reunion”: “Africans were seen as less threatening. They were foreigners, so they were more acceptable, in a sense.”

In fall 1962, the first black student enrolled at Davidson College – Benoit Nzengu, from the Congo. Next week’s blog will cover Ben Nzengu’s and the other early black students’ experiences at Davidson from 1962-1977 – watch this space!

Senior-Faculty Day

This week students in a Writing 101 class are getting introduced to researching in the archives.  They will be creating new entries in the Davidson Encyclopedia on topics related to student leisure.  While the in-class exercise centered around ways students celebrated holidays, some other traditions popped up as ones we might want to revive.

One of these is Senior-Faculty Day.  Granted there were only 153 members of the senior class and 47 faculty when the first day was held in April 20, 1939, which might have made it a little easier to organize. According the Davidsonian story of April 19th, the impetus for such day came from a desire on both sides “to come to a more complete understanding of the other’s problems whereby more whole-hearted co-operation may be given between the two groups.”

Headline from 19 April 1939 article announcing first Senior-Faculty Day.

Headline from 19 April 1939 article announcing first Senior-Faculty Day.

Apparently this meeting of the minds was to happen primarily through athletic contests and barbecue. Students on the planning committee included Shaw Smith (future director of the college union), Ovid Bell, and Oscar Armstrong.  Although, the faculty opted to include coaches on their team, the class of 1939 won three out of four contests.  The faculty managed to win at golf, while the seniors swept tennis, bowling and softball.

Despite the 1940’s contest headline “Seniors Meet Faculty Foes in Athletics,” goodwill prevailed and a tradition was launched.  An editorial in the April 1,  1942 (not a humor issue) encouraging students to get to know faculty noted:

If after careful examination of the individual college records of each of the faculty members, the students are not convinced that they are ‘regular fellows,’ their showing at the Varsity-Faculty basketball game, on Senior-Faculty Day, and in the Stunt Night program should at least arouse curiosity to determine by personal contact outside the classroom the true character of the instructing staff.

Faculty and seniors on the ball field

Faculty and seniors on the ball field

The games continued until 1963 with a break during the World War II years. The return of the Senior-Faculty Day in 1946 included not only the athletic contests (now tennis, volleyball, softball, golf and horseshoes), but the picnic, a faculty skit, and a Senior-Faculty smoker (not a traditional we are likely to revive -even if they were according the Davidsonian “very, very interesting.”)

By the early 1950s, student prowess had given way to the faculty’s honed skills. In 1954, Coach Pete Whittle, speaking for the faculty, expressed the wish that “the seniors try make it interesting for us this time.”  The Davidsonian suggested that “Somehow –perhaps mindful of the approach of diploma time– the senior classes of the past two years have allowed the old-timers to claim the win.

The 1954 games were spread out over more days included golf on Monday, tennis on Wednesday, followed by volleyball and softball (also on Wednesday). The post-game meal was held at Erwin Lodge.   Other years, the teams gathered at Hobart Park for hot dogs and one at least one occasion when the food preparation short, everyone convened at a local restaurant.

Roasting hot dogs after a day of play

Roasting hot dogs after a day of play

Last report on a Senior-Faculty Day - May 1963

Last report on a Senior-Faculty Day – May 1963

The games did not survive the changes of the 1960s and perhaps the senior-faculty ratio no longer works –but take a moment and just imagine today’s seniors pitching a softball today’s faculty

Better Than the M & M’s Pimento Cheese

Time for another edition of our Recipes from the Archives blog series – week’s dish is Gail Gibson’s “Better than the M&M’s Pimento Cheese” from Great Expectations: The Davidson College 1990-1991 Office Support Staff Cookbook.

The cover of

The cover of Great Expectations: The Davidson College 1990-1991 Office Support Staff Cookbook.

The Office Support Staff organization was born out of a long tradition of social groups founded by women staff members at Davidson College – in the 1950s, Professor Ernest Beaty (Class of 1920; English and Latin professor at Davidson College from 1925 to 1966) nicknamed the group of office workers “The Chambermaids,” a reference to the statues on Chambers Building, where most of the women worked. The group first drafted a Statement of Purpose in 1975, illustrating their goals: “The purpose of THE CHAMBERMAIDS shall be to support the students, faculty and administration of Davidson College; to encourage in a considerate and professional manner the full potential development of its members; to foster fellowship; and to establish an official line of communication between its members and the College in order to promote greater understanding and cooperation.”

The caption on this photo reads: "The original Chambermaids." Taken in 1955, this picture includes: Kathryn Halliburton, Kathy Wilson, Dela Shore, Mildred Little, Sally Wilson, Nan Lingle, Betty Wally, Peggy Cashion, Page Huckabee, Blanche Parker, A. Wilson, C. Bordeaux, B. Brooks, Joyce Fleagle, H. Allen, Loyce Chaney, Florede Meetze.

The caption on this photo reads: “The original Chambermaids.” Taken in 1955, this picture includes: Kathryn Halliburton, Kathy (Kitty) Wilson, Della Shore, Mildred Little, Sally Wilson, Nan Lingle, Betty Wally, Peggy Cashion, Page Huckabee, Blanche Parker, A. Wilson, C. Bordeaux, B. Brooks, Joyce Fleagle, H. Allen, Loyce Chaney, and Florede Meetze.

In 1982, The Chambermaids changed their organization name to Office Support Staff. At the time that the Great Expectations cookbook was produced as a fund-raiser, the organization officers were: Kristi Newton (President), Pat Gardner (Vice-President), Ethel Black (Secretary), and Jo Archie (Treasurer).  The front page of the cookbook provides a history of the Office Support Staff, including the major achievements of the group: “Ever since that time the ‘Chambermaids’, now known as the ‘Office Support Staff’, has accomplished a variety of goals such as tuition benefits for our children, flexible summer work hours, using a percentage of our sick days for personal leave time, cumulative years of service to count towards vacation leave, the posting of all jobs so that we are aware of the availabilities and representation on various campus committees, just to name a few.” The Office Support Staff ceased meeting as an organization in 2009.

Founding documents of the 1970s iteration of The Chambermaids

The front page of Great Expectations: The Davidson College 1990-1991 Office Support Staff Cookbook.

Though Great Expectations was compiled by the Office Support Staff, recipes were solicited from across all areas of campus. The recipe I chose was submitted by Gail Gibson, who taught in the English department from 1983 until her retirement in 2014. Gibson served as the College Marshall for many years, and is particularly well-known for staging a Chaucer banquet in her home as part of her curriculum. As the College news story on her retirement states, Gibson was very interested in food studies: “‘The best way to know a culture is to know how it eats!’ she explained. The Chaucer banquets ultimately led her to develop popular writing classes focused on food that she taught for years – food as symbol, food as a reflection of culture, food memoir and the anthropology of food.”

A photo of all new faculty for the 1983-84 academic year - Gail Gibson is on the far left of the front row.

A photo of all new faculty for the 1983-84 academic year – Gail Gibson is on the far left of the front row.

Gibson’s statement on the cultural import of food is particularly apropos as we look at her recipe for pimento cheese, a beloved Southern classic. Pimento cheese, as Scott Huler puts it in his story on the history of the food in Our State magazine, is a “Southern, rural, working-class icon — Carolina caviar, some call it” with a fascinating backstory. As a North Carolina transplant, I was particularly interested in having a go at making this cultural staple for the first time.

Gail Gibson's "Better than

Gail Gibson’s “Better Than the M&M’d Pimento Cheese” recipe, from the Office Support Staff Great Expectations cookbook.

Gibson’s take on pimento cheese is notable for the absence of mayonnaise, usually considered a key ingredient. The title, “Better than M&M’s Pimento Cheese” refers to what today’s Davidsonians just know as the Soda Shop. Opened in 1951 by Mary Potts and Murray Fleming (the two “M’s” in the name of the business), M&M Soda Shop has been a town staple ever since. Potts sold the business in 1985, but many of her original recipes remain popular menu items, including their pimento cheese.

a picture of M&M Soda Shop on Main Street, date unknown.

A picture of M&M Soda Shop on Main Street, date unknown.

Gibson’s recipe title is a playful homage to the popularity of M&M’s pimento cheese, suggesting this recipe is even better. I had a little bit of trouble making the recipe – the cream cheese did not easily combine with the other ingredients, and required a bit of milk to thin it out. I also ended up adding more grated cheese than the recipe called for, since once I had completed mixing the ingredients, the orange mixture seemed too smooth. Having never tasted the original M&M’s pimento cheese, I can’t say for sure that this recipe is better… but it is delicious!

The finished product, on toast!

The finished product, on toast!