Shared Stories

Shared Stories is the final name of a special project funded through an NEH Common Heritage grant.  Over the course of 2016, it has had several titles but now as the project is wrapping up, we’ve settled on this name.  On Saturday, January 14, 2017, we’ll be holding a special event to celebrate those who have shared their family stories, photographs, scrapbooks and more.  To date, we’ve gathering over 8 hours of oral histories and have several more scheduled in the coming weeks and scanned over 1,700 pages of documents.  We’ll have speakers sharing their stories (journalist Bea Thompson and Rev. Chris Springs), gospel music, and exhibits.  This Around the D will share some of the memories from the oral histories and some of the documents.

Davidson resident Marjean Torrence wrote a weekly column for the Mecklenburg Gazette detailing activities within the African-American communities in Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson. Many of her columns also were included in scrapbooks.

Gloria Kerns at opening of her shop on South Main Street in Davidson.

Gloria Kerns at opening of her shop on South Main Street in Davidson.

This ad came from the Davidson Monthly almost a century before Torrence's column.

This ad came from the Davidson Monthly almost a century before Torrence’s column.

 

I graduated from nursing school in 1956. Then after that, I worked at Good Samaritan school for 2 years, on the medical unit. After that, I changed jobs and went to the Physical Rehabilitation Institute in Charlotte and worked there. . . I worked rehab for 36 years. I changed different positions there and my last 15 years at rehab I was in nursing administration. And I did some family education during that time at rehab with families and physically handicapped patients. That was really rewarding. The whole time I was there I enjoyed it, you were always learning something different, some new from working with those people. Erving McClain

A day in Ralph Johnson's barbershop.

A day in Ralph Johnson’s barbershop.

I heard that Mr. Johnson had a opening, so I came here in ’57 and started working for him. . .And then in ’70, I got a job in Charlotte as a salesman, selling cars. Worked there for six and a half years. Ray Skidmore American Motors. Five and have years and then a year in Gastonia, that was in the middle seventies and the economy got bad, the gas prices. And I said, “well, I’m going back to the barber shop.” .. I didn’t keep my license renewed, so I went back to renew the license and I started at Potts Barber Shop in Cornelius and worked there for a number of years; 22 years. And it was good for me, good to me there, too. I enjoyed working with Mr. Potts over there. Seven years ago, in ’93, I decided to come over here and get my own shop. That’s when Norton went out of business. The way it got started was, Mr. Knox came over and said, “Raeford, I’ve got a place available, you would be interested?” I said “Nah,” I wasn’t even going to think about it. And then he said, “Norton’s going out of business,” and I said, “It might be good for me.” And I went by a few days later and we made a deal that same day to get this place.”  James Raeford

I even worked for Davidson College. In the library in the serials and documents. That’s in the early 70s. I had worked at the bank, Piedmont Bank and Trust in Davidson. I was one of the first blacks, really I was the first black they hired at Piedmont Bank and Trust. Peggy Rivens

Yearbook staff in 1966 for Torrrence-Lytle School - copies of the yearbooks were loaned for scanning.

Yearbook staff in 1966 for Torrence-Lytle School – copies of the yearbooks were loaned for scanning.

When I was in school this was grades one through four. The fifth and sixth grades were somewhere, and seventh and eighth, I don’t really know where. In ’53, they added another wing to Huntersville Colored School, and in ’53-54 it became Torrance-Lytle in honor of the men who had lobbied so hard to the county commissioners of Mecklenburg County to obtain a school, because before, if you wanted to further your education from the sixth grade, you had to attend a boarding school in another city, like Salisbury or Kannapolis or Concord.  Bee Jay Caldwell

 

Notice published in the Mecklenburg Gazette in 1965

Notice published in the Mecklenburg Gazette in 1965

The courses were reading, writing, arithmetic. Oh, one thing the teachers did try to do was to provide some activities for us. You know how your parents want to come see you perform, so we had plays  We had a choir, we had a dance group, we had May Day outside. The higher students, they had oratorical contests. Frances Beale

But one thing, that in the winter time children had to walk so far, when they got to the room their fingers would be almost frozen. The bus, the white bus would pass them, they would be walking. I resent, at an early age I resented getting second-hand books. They would take the books from the white school and send them here. Fortunately, I was helping all the teachers because I was just in the community and I was the first to see the books so I got a good book. But I didn’t like that, I just resented getting those second-hand books. It was very hard for me to deal with. Frances Beale

Sports at Torrence-Lytle – We had some of our equipment from the College, they gave us their used equipment. We had to buy shoes. They gave us their pants. We had a baseball team, we had a basketball team and we had a pretty fair team [given] the conditions. We didn’t have a gym. We didn’t have one in Davidson and we didn’t have one in Huntersville. So if it rained, the game was cancelled. The ground was so wet you couldn’t practice. We had a track team, and my first year at Huntersville, he guy came there from the agricultural department. We hauled grass and dirt to make the fields. Theodore Wilson

Early African-American baseball team from North Mecklenburg

Early African-American baseball team from North Mecklenburg

There was a movie [theater] in Cornelius we’d go to. There wasn’t much fun, you made  your fun yourself.  [Churches] used to have fried fish picnics and picnics on May Day, ball games, and that was fun. Susie Lowery

Hood Norton and family

Hood Norton and family

I remember asking my mother why did she cooked so much on Sundays. And she said, well if anyone comes by we’ll have enough to share with them. She was from a family of, I think, 7 sisters and one sister had 9 or 10 children. That’s where we could end up on Sundays a lot of the time, out in the country. No matter who came there was always enough food for everybody. She go in and pull out another jar and open it up. I remember them canning. I remember my dad having a small garden and my granddad. My granddad, I remember them killing pigs, killing hogs. Verdie Torrence

We had picnics. We had to be industrious because there was no outlet for us. We were relegated to the east side of the railroad track, so we had picnics and camp meetings. The reason we did this was because we had to have some source of joy and fun to release the anxiety and tensions that we had, and so we had that. And people became entrepreneurs. You soon learned that if you were going to have a picnic, you had to have somebody to sell the fish, hot dogs and drinks, for popcorn and for somebody to take the twenty-five cent photographs. Bee Jay Caldwell

If you want to know more, in the coming weeks, transcripts and copies of the scanned images will be online on the Shared Stories website. We are grateful to all who have been interviewed and who shared their photographs and documents to ensure that these stories are preserved and shared.

 

Sassy Spice Cake

For this installment of Recipes from the Archives, I chose to make “Sassy Spice Cake,” contributed by “Mrs. J.P. Stowe” to the 1965 The Village Cook Book: Recipes from the P.T.A. Pantry, Davidson, North Carolina. The members of Davidson’s Parent-Teacher Association gathered recipes from townswomen compiled the cookbook as a fundraiser for Davidson Elementary School.

I selected this recipe because of it’s fun title, and because it had some similarities with election cake recipes. Election cakes, as laid out in a Bon Appétit story on their history, were an American tradition at the polls in the days of the Early Republic. While our archival collections do not contain any election cake recipes, Sassy Spice Cake contains some of the same ingredients and flavors, so it seemed an apropos choice.

The cover of the 1965 PTA cookbook.

The cover of the 1965 PTA cookbook.

Finding out more about Mrs. J.P. Stowe proved to be difficult – she didn’t appear in any of our human resources records, and I couldn’t find any relatives who had graduated from or worked at Davidson College. However, some creative Internet searching led me to an obituary on obitcentral.com that seems to match:

“Agnes F. Honeycutt Stowe of Davidson died Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2001 at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center.

Born Jan. 9, 1923 in Stony Point, to the late James Ray and Minnie Triplett Foy, she was a member of Davidson United Methodist Church. For many years she worked at Laney’s Fish Camp. She founded Aggie ‘J’ Originals and was one of the first three cross-stitch designers.

Survivors include her sons, Tommy Honeycutt of Davidson and Tim Honeycutt of Charlotte; a daughter, Sandra H. Boyd of Davidson; a brother, Frank L. Foy of Virginia; sisters, Peggy F. Pender of Huntersville and Minnie Rae Barker of Denver; eight grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.

Husbands, James Monroe Honeycutt and J.P. Stowe; son, James H. Honeycutt, Jr.; b[r]others, James and Joseph Foy, and sister, Sue F. Howard preceded her in death.

Funeral services were Saturday, Nov. 17 at Davidson United Methodist Church. Interment followed at the Mimosa Cemetery.

Memorials may be made to the American Heart Association, 1229 Greenwood Cliff, Suite 109, Charlotte, N.C. 28204.”

Anges Foy Honeycutt Stowe is most likely the same “Mrs. J.P. Stowe” – U.S. Census Bureau data shows that in 1940, then 17 year old Agnes lived in Davidson with her first husband, James Monroe Honeycutt, in the same house as her mother Minnie and younger siblings. Laney’s Fish Camp, mentioned in the obituary as Agnes’ longtime employer, was a fried fish restaurant in Mooresville that closed in 2013.

Library Serials Assistant and longtime Davidson resident Mittie Wally mentioned that she’d met Agnes Stowe and that she was a great cook. She also confirmed that Agnes husband was “in a roundabout way related to Stowe’s Corner” – the triangular shaped building on Main Street that currently houses Flatiron Kitchen + Taphouse, and used to contain a gas station owned by the Stowe family.

Agnes Stowe's Sassy Spice Cake recipe.

Agnes Stowe’s Sassy Spice Cake recipe.

The Sassy Spice Cake recipe is fairly simple, and I followed it to the letter with the exception of the pan shape – I chose to make the cake in a bundt pan instead of an “oblong cake pan,” since it was more reminiscent of the election cake recipe put out by OWL Bakery. The icing is definitely “not a stiff frosting”; it’s more like a glaze.

The final product!

The final product!

I shared the Sassy Spice Cake with the rest of the library staff, to rave reviews – several staff members have said they saved the recipe to make at home for the holidays.

Davidson’s First Die-In

Many current Davidsonians are aware of the December 2014 die-in on Main Street, in which “a group of about 200 students and several faculty and staff members staged a die-in protest on Main Street Saturday night to protest police violence against people of color.” (The Davidsonian, December 10, 2014) However, this was not the first die-in at Davidson – the Davidson Peace Coalition organized a die-in on April 22, 1985. While our records on the Davidson Peace Coalition are not robust, we do have documentation of the die-in and reactions to the protest from the student newspaper, The Davidsonian.

Letter to the Editor from the Davidson Peace Coalition, April 19, 1985.

Letter to the Editor from the Davidson Peace Coalition, April 19, 1985.

As their Letter to the Editor states, the Peace Coalition organized the die-in as “a symbolic action to show our concern about the increased militarization, by U.S. aid, of Central America in particular and our earth in general.”

A photo capturing students participating in the die-in inf front of Chambers Building.

A photo capturing students participating in the die-in in front of Chambers Building.

This image of the die-in ran in the April 26, 1985 issue of The Davidsonian. The image and caption were the only coverage of the event, outside of Letters to the Editor.

This image of the die-in ran in the April 26, 1985 issue of The Davidsonian. The image and caption were the only coverage of the event, outside of Letters to the Editor and write-in opinion pieces.

In the issues following the die-in, The Davidsonian published a series of Letters to the Editor responding to both whether Davidson students should protest U.S. aid to the Contras in Nicaragua, and whether U.S. policies in Central America were justified.

James Lewis' letter expressing disapproval of the die-in.

James Lewis’ April 26 letter expressing disapproval of the die-in. Peggy Pierotti, the Photo Editor of The Davidsonian, had penned a much-criticized editorial that defined the “truly useful and utterly useless aspects of Davidson life” for the April 10, 1985 issue of the paper, called “Student Reflects On Life at Davidson.”

James Lewis’ Letter to the Editor inspired several responses from fellow students who disagreed with his read of the die-in:

Gordon Watkins' response to John Lewis, "Die-In Tried to Dispel Apathy," ran on the opinions page of the May 3, 1985 issue.

Gordon Watkins’ response to James Lewis, “Die-In Tried To Dispel Apathy,” ran on the opinions page of the May 3, 1985 issue.

Sharon Spong and Stu King's Letter to the Editor in response to John Lewis ran in the May 3, 1985 issue of The Davidsonian.

Sharon Spong and Stu King’s Letter to the Editor in response to James Lewis ran in the May 3, 1985 issue of The Davidsonian.

Anne Blue's response to John Lewis also ran in the May 3, 1985 issue. Anne Blue Wills is now a professor of religion at Davidson College.

Anne Blue’s response to Lewis also ran in the May 3, 1985 issue. Anne Blue Wills is now a professor of religion at Davidson College.

Russell Booker's sardonic response to the conversations on campus surrounding U.S. involvement in Nicaragua ran alongside a political cartoon on the subject in the May 10, 1985 issue of The Davidsonian.

Russell Booker’s sardonic response to the conversations on campus surrounding U.S. involvement in Nicaragua ran alongside a political cartoon on the subject in the May 10, 1985 issue of The Davidsonian.

Lewis then responded to his critics, also in the May 10 issue:

Lewis' "Contras Like 'Founding Fathers'" takes aim at the letters responding to his April 26 opinion letter.

Lewis’ “Contras Like ‘Founding Fathers'” takes aim at the letters responding to his April 26 opinion letter.

The May 10 issue was the last of the 1984-1985 academic year, and when publication of the newspaper began again for the fall semester, the die-in stopped appearing in the editorials page. The Davidsonian is one of the College Archives’ most heavily-used resources, and these opinion letters make clear why: the student newspaper provides valuable insight into what students thought and cared about while they were attending Davidson College. Furthermore, sometimes mentions in The Davidsonian are the only documentation we have of campus events or student groups. The Davidsonian continues to publish today, and we continue to meticulously gather and preserve the newspaper!

Gingerale Fruit Salad

For this installment of Recipes from the Archives, I made Mary Black’s “Gingerale Fruit Salad” from the Davidson Civic Club’s Davidson Cook Book (circa 1928). The Davidson Cook Book has been the source of the some of our favorite archival recipes, including the Misses Scofield’s Ice Box Pudding #1. The Davidson Civic Club (1911 – 1959; Davidson Civic League from 1952) was founded to promote “a well-kept household and a place for good and pleasant living” in Davidson.

The Black family home, on Concord Road (circa 1987).

The Black family home, on Concord Road (circa 1987).

Mary Caldwell Black (1899 – 1989) moved to Davidson with her parents Dr. James C. and Emma Black, sister Emma, and five brothers in 1918, so that her brothers could attend Davidson College – John McKinley Black graduated from Davidson in 1918, Robert Lawson Black in 1922, William Morton Black in 1926, and Samuel Lacy Black graduated in 1929. All four were football stars while in college, and William was a member of the 1926 State Championship team. Their brother James C. Black, Jr. graduated from North Carolina State University.

Mary and Ellen both attended Flora MacDonald College in Red Springs, North Carolina, as part of the 1922 and 1923 classes respectively. Coverage of town news in The Davidsonian makes it clear that both sisters were active in the social scene of Davidson, with Ellen performing a high jump at field games during “Senior Christian Endeavor Expert Class” on campus in March 1924, and Mary playing “the Spirit of Mexico” during a pageant in February 1923. Both women were active in bible study groups in college at Red Springs and in Davidson, and Mary was a longtime member of town book club The Tuesday Club. She gave a lecture on the history of religion in Davidson at The Tuesday Club’s November 1959 meeting; a copy of this speech is in the club’s archival records. Ellen lived in New York City for many years and took a nursing training course at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, but moved back to Davidson and into the family home with her sister by the 1980s. Both sisters then moved to The Pines.

This March 30, 1987 Davidsonian article on Mary Black provides insight into her life in Davidson.

This March 30, 1987 Davidsonian article on Mary Black provides insight into her life in Davidson.

Mary Black was interviewed by Nelle McCorkle ’87 for The Davidsonian, which included some lively reflections on Davidson College and town in the 1910s and ’20s:

“While her brothers attended Davidson, Black and her family frequently entertained their student friends. ‘I’ve always lived with a whole lot of men here,’ she said. ‘Some called this the Kappa Sigma Hotel… One Sunday my brother said, ‘Who slept in the front room last night?’ I said, ‘I don’t know; I thought it was a friend of yours.’ He said, ‘I thought you knew him.’ Before dark, here came a friend of ours who said he wanted to thank his hosts. He said he just looked around ’til he found an empty bed and got in it.'”

Mary also gave some insight on what it was it was like for women to take classes at Davidson College while it was still a men’s college:

“Although her brothers all enrolled at Davidson (four graduated from Davidson; one graduated from North Carolina State University), Black never attended Davidson classes. She said of the college attitude toward women who asked to attend classes at that time, ‘It wasn’t very pleasant really. They didn’t give them any recognition – no diplomas, no certificates, some of the people in town went for two years and then went somewhere else. They couldn’t take all the courses – some of the professors just wouldn’t have girls in class.”

Perhaps the most interesting archival trace of the Black family are the records we have of Mary Black’s travels – Mary and fellow Davidsonian Mary Richards spent 1923-24 studying at Oxford and traipsing around Europe. Mary Richards attended Converse College, was an English teacher in Mocksville, Mebane, and Davidson. The two Marys sailed for England on October 6, 1923.

One of the fascinating pieces of ephemera in the Black collection is this pamphlet from the United States Lines: "What's going on in Europe in 1923."

One of the fascinating pieces of ephemera in the Black collection is this pamphlet from the United States Lines: “What’s going on in Europe in 1923.”

Mary Black's reader's ticket for the Oxford Public Library, "to be renewed before 18 Oct 1924."

Mary Black’s reader’s ticket for the Oxford Public Library, “to be renewed before 18 Oct 1924.”

A card admitting Mary Black "to the lectures of Professor Gordon on 'The Seventeenth Century' in Michaelmas Term, 1923."

A card admitting Mary Black “to the lectures of Professor Gordon on ‘The Seventeenth Century’ in Michaelmas Term, 1923.”

Mary Richards' planned itinerary for a portion of the Marys European adventures.

Mary Richards’ planned itinerary for a portion of the Marys European adventures.

Mary's train ticket for her return to Davidson, via Charlotte.

Mary’s train ticket for her return to Davidson, via Charlotte.

Mary Black later took trips to Canada and the western United States, and we have some ephemera from those travels as well. The Canadian trip included a visit to Boswell’s, “Canada’s First Brewery,” Quebec City, and Montreal. Her western trip spanned several states and included stops at the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, and Yellowstone.

A suggested itinerary from one of Mary Black's later travels - this one is for a west coast trip.

A suggested itinerary from one of Mary Black’s later travels – this one is for a west coast trip.

A few stickers from Yellowstone Park, likely picked up on her western U.S. trip.

A few stickers from Yellowstone Park, likely picked up on her western U.S. trip.

I chose Mary Black’s “Gingerale Fruit Salad” for two reasons – I felt it was time that I tackled a gelatin salad recipe since we have so many in our archival collections, and I was intrigued by the travel ephemera of Mary Black, so choosing her recipe allowed me to look further into her collection and her background.

Mary Black's 1920's "Gingerale Fruit Salad" recipe.

Mary Black’s 1920’s “Gingerale Fruit Salad” recipe.

The recipe was simple to follow – essentially, boil the juice and melt sugar and gelatin into it, then mix everything else together, place in a mold, and pop it in the fridge to set. I chose to use Whole Foods 365 ginger ale and Granny Smith apples, as those are my favorite types of soda and apples respectively and the recipe did not specify. I also used crystallized ginger in place of preserved ginger, since my coworker Sharon Byrd (Special Collections Outreach Librarian) had some crystallized ginger at home that she contributed to the cooking effort.

The finished product, before and after un-molding!

The finished product, before and after un-molding!

I am pleased with how the fruit salad turned out, although the next time I attempt a molded gelatin recipe, I will look into decorating it in a more traditional fashion. A bed of lettuce and some parsley in the center may have spruced up this effort, but Mary Black’s recipe did not give decoration instructions as some of the other recipes do. Overall, an easy gelatin recipe from a fascinating woman of Davidson’s past!

The Calling Cards of Miss Louise Sloan

The College Archives & Special Collections recently received new material on Louise Sloan, collected from a closet in what had been the long-time home of Sloan family on South Main Street (next to Town Hall). Louise (1892-1992) was a local character – a long-time time resident known for her thriftiness and spunk.

The Sloan house on South Main Street, built circa 1900 and longtime home of Louise Sloan.

The Sloan house on South Main Street, built circa 1900 and longtime home of Louise Sloan.

Born to Ida Withers Sloan and James Lee Sloan, Jr. (Class of 1884), Louise worked as an insurance agent and the 1920 census taker. Her father was described as “a local businessman, and sometime postmaster and mayor” by Mary Beaty in her book, Davidson: A History of the Town from 1835 until 1937. Sloan, Jr. occasionally owned a store or two on Main Street, invested in the Linden Cotton Mill in town, and served as mayor from 1900 to 1920 and again for 1925-1926. Both of Louise Sloan’s parents came from prominent local families, with ties to the area that predate the founding of Davidson College. She attended Peace College (now William Peace University) in Raleigh, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1911.

There are many town stories about Louise Sloan, many dealing with her extreme frugality and propensity for never throwing anything away. Jan Blodgett and Ralph Levering’s One Town, Many Voices contains many such tales and reminisces:

“She loved reading the Wall Street Journal, but only if she could read it at the college library or retrieve copies from the trash at the post office.”

“‘She was always very dressed and had her rouge on,’ Elaine McArn recalled. ‘She wore a little black suit a lot with a black hat with a veil.’ ‘She wore fifty-year-old clothes or older and walked all over town and picked things up,’ Mary Fetter Stough noted. ‘Every evening she would go through the garbage cans [downtown],’ Jane Power Schenck observed. ‘We [children] were always afraid of her because we thought she was a witch.'”

“She was famous for attending weddings at DCPC to which she had not been invited. During receptions in the fellowship room, invited guests watched with amusement as she filled her purse with goodies that she presumably ate at home later.”

This last story is the most commonly repeated, and although she wasn’t invited, it was considered a slight if Miss Sloan did not crash your wedding. She worked for a bit at the College Library, and then Library Director Chalmers G. Davidson (Class of 1928) even took out a second subscription of the Charlotte Observer for the students because Sloan so often snagged the paper as soon as it arrived.

Louise Withers Sloan posing inside a tree trunk in 1941.

Louise Withers Sloan posing inside a tree trunk in 1941.

However, these tales of thriftiness shouldn’t give the impression that Louise Sloan was one-dimensional, or at all disliked in town – as Mary Beaty wrote, “Miss Louise is something of a landmark herself, one of Davidson’s human institutions, a southern gentlewoman of soft features and incisive mind.” (Davidson: A History of the Town from 1835 until 1937)

One of the new additions to our collections found in the closets of the old Sloan house is Louise Sloan’s calling card collection – a wonderful snapshot of the social life in the town of Davidson in the first half of the 20th century. Some of the cards have the top left corner folded down, which could have several possible meanings – as Emily Post conveys in her 1922 Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home chapter on “Cards and Visits”:

Turning down a corner of a visiting card is by many intended to convey that the visit is meant for all the ladies in the family. Other people mean merely to show that the card was left at the door in person and not sent in an envelope. Other people turn them down from force of habit and mean nothing whatever. But whichever the reason, more cards are bent or dog-eared than are left flat.

A sampling of Miss Sloan's calling cards.

A sampling of Miss Sloan’s calling cards.

One of our favorites, this calling card is from "Jim" - first name only.

One of our favorites, this calling card is from “Jim” – first name only.

These cards illustrate the relationships between families in Davidson – both old town families, and faculty families that made the town their home. We look forward to exploring more of the collections from the Sloan house, and learning even more about the fascinating Louise Sloan!

Pumpkin Dessert Squares

Last week, Davidson freshmen ran the Cake Race – a Davidson tradition that dates back to 1930. According to an article in the November 13, 1930 issue of The Davidsonian, “It is intended that the first cake race held this year will set a precedent for future Freshman classes, and that in the future it will become an annual and looked forward to event in the yearly routine of the Freshman classes.”

The first cake race also saw the setting of "a new college cake race record," naturally.

The first cake race also saw the setting of “a new college cake race record,” naturally.

Track coach Heath “Pete” Whittle (Class of 1930) is responsible for beginning the Cake Race at Davidson when he began working in the athletics department in 1930. Whittle would stay in charge of the track team and serve as an Assistant Director of Athletics until 1971. The purpose was for Whittle to scout new running talent for the track team, and the cakes were the motivation for then mandatory race. Cakes baked by faculty spouses and townswomen were not the only prizes – students could also claim a number of items donated by local businesses.

Cakes are solicited from College employees and townspeople alike, as this 1990 memo shows.

Cakes are solicited from College employees and townspeople alike, as this 1990 memo shows. I heeded the helpful hint to use a disposable container for my cake.

Now the Cake Race is a voluntary event, with a fixed distance of 1.7 miles. The race wasn’t held in 1931-1933, 1941-1949, or 1972, as interest seemed to have waned, but upperclassmen insisted on the return of the race the following year and the 1.7 mile rite of passage has remained ever since. Sterling Martin (Class of 1963), a former winner of the Cake Race and organizer of the event from 1972 until the mid-1990s, said “The upperclassmen had a fit… they said they had to go through it, so they wanted to see everybody else run it. The next year we reinstated the race.” (Davidson Journal, Fall/Winter 1987) A few other colleges and universities have held cake races, and Georgia Tech’s also seems to have been tied to scouting new runners for the track and cross country teams, but it isn’t known whether Whittle was inspired by cake races at other institutions.

Sterling Martin selects a cake as his prize for winning the 1959 cake race.

Sterling Martin selects a cake as his prize for winning the 1959 cake race.

A group of freshmen women in the class of 1989 pose with their hard-earned cakes, August 1985.

A group of freshmen women in the class of 1989 pose with their hard-earned cakes, August 1985.

When Daisy Southerland married Pete Whittle in 1933, she too joined the Cake Race tradition. Daisy Whittle (1906-1991) hailed from Mobile, Alabama, and worked as the Director of Christian Education at First Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, prior to moving to Davidson. Once established in town, Daisy ran a nursery school out of the Whittle family home, was active in the Davidson College Presbyterian Church, and made cakes for every class of freshmen until at least 1987. Although Pete Whittle passed away in 1975, Daisy continued attending the annual Cake Race and was active in the Davidson Senior Center.

Daisy Whittle presents a cake to a winning racer in 1963.

Daisy Whittle presents a cake to a winning racer in 1963.

As Daisy described in the Davidson Journal Fall/Winter 1987 issue, “I don’t think I’ve ever missed a race… I’ve made cakes every year, and my daughters helped when they were in high school. The cakes were usually chocolate, because that’s my favorite.” This year, to honor Daisy’s legacy and celebrate a new class of Davidson freshmen, I selected one of her recipes to make for the 2016 Cake Race and for this installment of our Recipes From the Archives blog series. Unfortunately, we don’t have any of her chocolate cake recipes in our collections, but Daisy did submit a recipe for Pumpkin Dessert Squares to the Davidson Senior Center’s 1985 printing of The Davidson Cookbook.

Daisy Whittle's Senior Center portrait, taken by Frank Bliss.

Daisy Whittle’s Senior Center portrait, taken by Frank Bliss circa 1980.

As the Davidson Journal‘s Fall/Winter 1987 issue states, “there are several competitions going on here – one involving the 140 freshmen running the 1.7-mile race, and another fiercer contest among the cake bakers waiting and watching to see whose cake will be picked first.” Daisy Whittle’s cakes have long been picked early in the selection process – racers are given place cards as they cross the finish line, and select cakes by that placement, alternating between men and women winners. Utensils are handed out, so cake eating can begin right away.

Daisy Whittle's recipe

The Pumpkin Dessert Squares I made for this year’s Cake Race.

I followed Daisy’s recipe to the letter, with the exception of cutting the cake into squares and serving with whipped cream. I assumed the whipped cream wouldn’t hold up in the August heat of North Carolina, as cakes are placed outside an hour or so before the race begins. Instead I sprinkled a little bit of powdered sugar on top of the cake, and constructed a festive, inedible banner topping in order to make the cake more appealing to the runners.

Some this year's cake spread - one photograph can't capture all of the cakes!

Some this year’s cake spread – one photograph can’t capture all of the cakes!

My version of Daisy's Pumpkin Dessert, with "Welcome Wildcats" banner topper!

My version of Daisy’s Pumpkin Dessert, with “Welcome Wildcats” banner topper!

As Alex Hunger (Class of 2009) said in a 2005 Charlotte Observer article on the Cake Race, “I’ve never had to work this hard for a cake… running for (cake) definitely makes it more worth eating.” I hope all of the members of the Class of 2020 enjoyed their cake-filled welcome to Davidson!

Potato Poories

For this installment of Recipes from the Archives, I went back to the Athenaeum Book Club’s 1965-66 “Culinary Customs Around the World” cookbook, and chose Ruby Alexander’s “Potato Poories.”

The Athenaeum Club is one of several Davidson women’s book discussion groups, and although its date of founding is unknown, the Davidson College Archives holds materials on the club dating from the early 1950s until 2013. According to the club’s 1952 Constitution and By-Laws, the purpose of the Athenaeum Club is “to promote fellowship and mutual improvement of the members through the study and sharing of ideas.” Members would routinely select two books to host discussions for each year, and for the 1965 – 1966 year, members selected a theme of Culinary Customs Around the World – when a member would host a book discussion, they would also make a few dishes from a country or region of their choosing.

Recipes compiled from Athenaeum Book Club members for the 1965-1966

Cookbook compiled from Athenaeum Book Club members’ recipes for the 1965 – 1966 year.

According to book club minutes, members chose to make dishes reminiscent of “China, Persia, Mexico, Holland, South Africa, India, Ireland, Russia, Sweden, France, Pakistan, Hawaii, and Lebanon.” Each member was also expected to bring a dish from the country or region to the club’s Christmas party. Minutes also show that each book club meeting usually included some sort of presentation on region chosen, either by the book club member hosting or by an invited guest. While I’m not an expert on cooking by any means, my impression of the cookbook was that the recipes were more “inspired by” than necessarily accurate to the regional cuisine chosen by each member – recipes may have been clipped or adapted from magazines or other cookbooks, which was common practice.

alexandercollege1

The cover of the notebook used for recording minutes for the 1965-66 year of meetings, and the book list showing each member’s selection for their first book.

Ruby Alexander was a member of the Athenaeum Book Club from 1965 until at least 2013. Information on Ruby is sparse – from book club programs I was able to gather that another member of the club was her mother-in-law, Mildred Cashion Alexander (1917 – 2012). Mildred was also a long-time member of the Athenaeum Club, beginning in the early 1950s and continuing to be active until her death in 2012. Mildred was married to James B. Alexander, Sr., who graduated from Davidson College in 1938 and started the Alexander Trucking Company in town.  Ruby married their son, James B. Alexander, Jr., although I couldn’t find anything more in our records on Ruby specifically. However, James B., Jr. and Ruby Alexander are still residents of Davidson.

Ruby chose Pakistan as her theme for the Athenaeum Book Club’s cookbook. I chose Ruby’s “Potato Poories” because I was intrigued by the recipe – in the cookbook, it includes the subtitle “Delicious deep-fat bread rounds, greasy fingers, but so good you’ll lick them.” That sounded pretty good to me, and as we have a new staff member starting today (Alison Bradley, our new Collection Development Librarian), I decided to make “potato poories” for her welcome party.

Ruby Alexander's "potato poories" recipe.

Ruby Alexander’s “potato poories” recipe.

Making the “potato poories” turned out to be more of a logistical challenge than many of the recipes I’ve made from our archival collections before. Because they’re fried, I couldn’t follow my usual routine of making the recipe at home and bringing the resulting treats into work the next day. My coworker Jan Blodgett suggested I fry the poories at work, using a fondue pot. I made the called-for two packages of instant mashed potatoes at home, combined with flour, prepared the dough patties and stored them in the fridge overnight. Then, this morning, I fried the patties in our staff break room in the fondue pot.

Left: fondue pot frying setup (thanks to Davidson College's Technical Director/Scenographer Neil Reda for letting us borrow one of his fondue pots!). Right: the finished product.

Left: fondue frying setup (thanks to Davidson College’s Technical Director/Scenographer Neil Reda for letting us borrow one of his fondue pots!). Right: the finished product.

I used canola oil instead of fat, so that the recipe would be vegetarian-friendly. My finished product turned out differently than I was expecting – I made more of an ersatz latke or rosti than a poori. I learned a few things during the cooking process:

  1. I have no idea what the consistency of yeast dough is. Ruby’s recipe did not specify an amount of flour; rather, flour is added to the mashed potatoes “until mixture is soft and elastic like yeast dough.” I’ve never made bread, so I basically added flour until the consistency seemed different than regular old mashed potatoes. Since my “potato poories” never floated on top of the oil – they were too dense – I think I needed to add much, much more flour to this mixture.
  2. If you’re going to prep patties of dough the night before, you should use bakery release or parchment paper to separate the patties. I used tinfoil because I didn’t have baking parchment at home, and removing the patties was a gigantic pain – many of my “poories” were oddly shaped because of this.
  3. An electric fondue pot is actually a really great option for stove top frying. Because the sides are high, I didn’t have any issues with oil spatter, and the pot may have been hotter than using a pan on top of a stove. I would definitely recommend a fondue pot for all of your home frying needs!

While my “potato poories” may have been different than both Ruby Alexander’s and a Pakistani puri, it was still very delicious! I would make these again, perhaps just as a potato pancake, and experiment with adding more ingredients.

National Bike Month

1984 Wildcat shows off pedaling skills.

1984 Wildcat shows off pedaling skills.

Taking advantage of May being (among other things) National Bike Month, Around the D will take a spin through the history of bicycles on campus.  The first mention of bikes comes in 1892 but points to two-wheelers appearing on campus earlier.  The Locals column in the February Davidson Monthly reported” “Bicycles are becoming rather abundant at Davidson after an absence of several years. Even our business men are beginning to use them for riding from their places of business to their homes.”  In the 1890s, the state of roads in Davidson was bumpy to say the least – the first paved roads didn’t happen until 1899.

Indeed, biking conditions prevented students and business men from taking up a challenge from a neighboring town.  As reported in the October 1894 issue:

The “Bike” craze struck the town with full force this summer, and although the place isn’t flooded with wheels, there are a good many enthusiasts. We understand that Mooresville has given Davidson a challenge for a race, but as there is no good track here, the challenge will probably go unaccepted. There is some talk of the construction of a track. If this is obtained, Mooresville will most probably regret her challenge.

Club page from 1895 Quips and Cranks

Club page from 1895 Quips and Cranks

Student and faculty bikers in 1895 were happy to poke a little fun at themselves – and their biking prowess —

1895 Advertisement

1895 Advertisement

while an advertisement in the same Quips and Cranks provides a reminder of changing technologies with the W. E. Shaw Harness Company expanding from reins, bridles and straps to pedals, tires, and handlebars.

1897 Quips and Cranks

1897 Quips and Cranks

Two years later, the yearbook cartoon reflected one of the social values of biking — the opportunity for Davidson students to spend time with young ladies.  And young ladies were biking:

The latest addition to Davidson “bicycle union” is Miss Julia Holt. She has presented herself with a Crescent, ‘97 model, and is learning to ride very fast, as she can be seen through the parlor window, in the afternoon, spinning back and forth at a lively rate. She begins by giving her wheel a special course of “indoor training.” [Davidson Monthly, January 1897]

Bicycle Club in 1900

Bicycle Club in 1900

In 1900, the club’s good humor came in the form of restyling themselves as a Corps with military sounding titles for officers and members being dubbed “Privates.”  The faculty usually listed as honorary members, were given a page to themselves.

Biking faculty in 1900

Biking faculty in 1900

Dr. Henry Louis Smith, physics professor and college president, appears on the lists and later received special attention for bringing one of the first motorcycles to town (in 1911, post  at least some road-paving).

Mentions of bikes disappear from the college records after 1900 – perhaps they had become too commonplace to notice.  A mention is made in 1941, when the town government, prompted by the Civic Club, decided to turn a street into a playground:

Every Thursday afternoon between 2:30 and 5:00pm a section of Woodland Street between Concord Street and the home of Dr. W. P. Cumming will be blocked off as a playground. Just recently has the pavement been extended on Woodland Street. This section is an ideal playground for the youngster. Here they may skate and ride their bicycles, wagons, and with the snows of winter their sleds, rocking chairs, and dishpans will glide down the gentle slope at the end of the street in safety. It was decided that that on Thursday there would be less use of the street. This step to provide our children with a healthier, happier and safer playground was done by the official action of the town board. [Davidsonian, 13 November 1941, p6]

The Civic Club expanded their interest in biking to road safety in 1951.  A special 2-day drive was held in town with visits by state and county highway department staff and demonstrations of traffic dangers.  The Civic Club’s booth passed out safe driving pledge cards for drivers and biker riders.

Biking from Belk in 1982

Biking from Belk in 1982

Although Davidson’s campus is fairly compact, students have come to rely on bikes for quick trips from dormitories to classes.

Mime biker

Mime biker

Or to Halloween parties – as Peter Tavemise did in 1986.

Anthony Foxx, class of 1993

Anthony Foxx, class of 1993

Or as a future Secretary of Transportation did.

Paula Davis turning bikes yellow.

Paula Davis turning bikes yellow.

A century after bikes came to campus, Davidson Outdoors started supporting biking, offering outings, and bike repair workshops. They also started the Yellow Bike program. Bright yellow bikes were placed around campus for students to use as needed. One student could ride a bike to Chambers, then another could take it to the Union.  The bikes met with hard times and some ungentle riders. They were retired and briefly replaced by Red Bikes.

Davidsonian article announcing red bikes program 25 January 2001

Davidsonian article announcing red bikes program 25 January 2001

In 2016, there are no community bikes but plenty of bikes filling up bike racks in front of dormitories and classrooms and even the library.

Bicycle and bricks and books - perfectly Davidson

Bicycle and bricks and books – perfectly Davidson

 

 

Beacon Hill Cookies

When we began our Recipes from the Archives blog series a year ago, the Archives & Special Collections team had a few aims: we wanted to experiment with a new way of making our archival collections accessible and interesting, and we (well, mostly me) wanted to learn more about historic cooking and connect with small town southern culture. But it wasn’t lost on us that the vast majority of the recipes in our collections come from women – in fact, shining a spotlight on the women of Davidson was an explicit goal. March is Women’s History Month, so it’s an excellent time to reflect on how our archival cooking experiment has been going since the first entry in March 2015 (Ice Box Pudding #1), and share some of the research challenges we’ve encountered.

For this week’s recipe, I revisited the 1965 The Village Cook Book: Recipes from the P.T.A. Pantry, Davidson, North Carolina and selected Elizabeth Proctor’s “Beacon Hill Cookies.” The members of Davidson’s Parent-Teacher Association gathered recipes from women in the town and compiled a cookbook as a fundraiser for an American flag for the auditorium and a recorder and filmstrips for the library of Davidson Elementary School.

"PTA Cookbooks To Buy School American Flag," from the February 25, 1965 issue of the Mecklenburg Gazette.

“PTA Cookbooks To Buy School American Flag,” from the February 25, 1965 issue of the Mecklenburg Gazette.

The PTA’s Village Cookbook was organized by and contributed to solely by women, and one of the challenges our team faces when selecting recipes is figuring out who each individual woman was. If she was married, the recipe-contributor is generally referred to by her husband’s last name and first and middle initials. Many of the women active in town organizations that compiled cookbooks were wives of faculty members, and their records are the easiest to uncover – we have employment records and reference files for all past faculty members, which often includes information about and pictures of the faculty member’s spouse. We have other sources to gather further information about spouses of faculty members, as well as women living in the town who had no employment connection to Davidson College – the published histories of the town and college (Cornelia Shaw’s Davidson College, Mary Beaty’s A History of Davidson College, and Jan Blodgett and Ralph Levering’s One Town, Many Voices) often includes stories about women whose names crop up in our cookbooks, and if the individual was active in town clubs or societies, we can often learn more about her through the manuscript records we have from the town Civic Club, Senior Center, or one of the town book clubs.

In the case of this week’s recipe-submitter, Elizabeth Proctor, information was harder to find. The Proctor family collection consists of two letters, one to Elizabeth from her mother, and one from her brother G.D. Proctor to their mother. There is not a lot of information about the family – we know that members of the family lived on South Main Street from roughly 1919 until at least 1965. Elizabeth’s name did not come up in any of my searches through town club rosters, or in any of the Davidson histories.

G.D. Proctor's letter to his mother in Davidson, October 1941.

G.D. Proctor’s letter to his mother in Davidson, October 1941.

The two letters themselves also do not reveal much information – G.D.P. sent a letter to his mother from the Veteran’s Hospital in Roanoke, Virginia on October 8, 1941. The letter contains interesting tidbits about war games across North Carolina in advance of the U.S.’s entry into World War II, and contains references to his sister, Elizabeth:

“I hope Lizzie can get my book – tho I doubt that it can be found, since more than 100 years have elapsed since it was published. I received the magazine that Lizzie sends me – and am glad to get it… Lizzie stated that you had trouble with your head in the mornings. Writes, GDP Received Lizzie’s letters”

The other letter in our collection is from Mrs. Proctor to Elizabeth, sent April 16, 1951 from Alexandria, Virginia. The contents of the letter concerned buying clothing for Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s health – her mother mentions a fever and the cold weather possibly being to blame.

The envelope from the April 1951 letter from Mrs. Proctor to Elizabeth.

The envelope from the April 1951 letter from Mrs. Proctor to Elizabeth – note the P.O. box, as going to the town post office to collect mail has remained a tradition in Davidson today.

Outside of these letters, we know very little about the Proctor family. The 1920 census tells us that Elizabeth’s parent’s were Adolphus R. and Phinny R., and her father worked as a carpenter. The rest of the family consisted of her older brother Shirley R., and younger siblings Cynthia E., Dewy G. (likely the G.D.P. from the letter in our collections), Janice M., Sidney E., and Helen C. All family members were listed as being born in North Carolina, and Elizabeth and Cynthia both gave their occupations as teachers at the “graded school.” By 1930, the census only records Adolphus, Phinny, Elizabeth, Janice, and Sidney as living in Davidson, and Elizabeth no longer listed a profession. Elizabeth was 32 in 1930, making her probable birth year 1898.

Other news that made it into town/college newspapers and notes from Mary Beaty’s A History of Davidson College: Sidney Proctor made the fifth grade honor roll in 1919; in November 1922, Elizabeth’s younger sister Helen participated in a Girl Scouts entertainment; in March 1923 Elizabeth visited “friends and relatives in Denver” (likely Denver, North Carolina, from The Davidsonian); and in 1926 Helen Proctor attended “Eastern Carolina Training School at Greenville, SC” (Also from The Davidsonian, possibly referring to the forerunner of East Carolina University, the East Carolina Teachers Training School in Greenville, NC). Records of the Davidson College Presbyterian Church list Elizabeth and a Mrs. G.D. Proctor as members. We also came across references to the family phone number through copies of Southern Bell Telephone Company records.

Miss Elizabeth Proctor's recipe for Beacon Hill Cookies.

Miss Elizabeth Proctor’s recipe for Beacon Hill Cookies.

I chose to make Elizabeth Proctor’s recipe for Beacon Hill Cookies from the PTA cookbook because I was intrigued by the title of the cookie – I used to live in Boston, and worked in Beacon Hill for nearly two years. Unfortunately, I ran into similar dead ends when exploring the history of Beacon Hill Cookies as when our team was investigating the Proctor family. It was difficult to track down references to the recipe and its history, although my coworker Sharon Byrd did find a mention of  Nabisco producing a cookie called “Beacon Hill” on the Cambridge Historical Society’s “The History of Candy Making in Cambridge” page. It’s likely that the Nabisco Beacon Hill Cookies are the same or similar to the recipe that Elizabeth Proctor was making in Davidson.

My Beacon Hill Cookies, in a Tupperware and on a plate.

My Beacon Hill Cookies, in a Tupperware and on a plate.

Beacon Hill Cookies are very easy to make – the meringue style cookies have very few ingredients and a short baking time. I used walnuts as the chopped nuts in my version, since Elizabeth Proctor’s recipe doesn’t specify a type of nut. My cookies turned out very flat, so I think I didn’t beat the egg white-sugar mixture for a long enough period of time. However, despite being flat and misshapen, the Beacon Hill Cookies do taste very good!

I hope that sharing our research process and the lack of information about some of the townswomen in Davidson illustrated a point – writing women’s history and telling women’s stories often requires reading against the grain and looking for references to women and their lives in unexpected places. While the Davidson College Archives & Special Collections often has rich materials on local women, particularly spouses of faculty members who were active in the local book clubs, finding out information about women of color, unmarried women, and women not active in town organizations can be difficult or impossible. For all our work digging up references to the Proctor family, we still don’t know when Elizabeth Proctor passed away, or any details of her life before her family moved to Davidson (circa 1919). The Recipes from the Archives blog series has certainly served as a way for me to learn more about women in Davidson from the 1920s until the 1990s, and to learn more about how food was made during that time period, and I hope it’s done the same for our readers!

“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.