Reckless Driving Incident Sheds Light on Life and Service of Mr. Enoch Donaldson

 

Fallen gravestone on dead leaves.

Photograph of desecrated tombstone of Enoch Donaldson from earlier this month.

On Wednesday, March 7th a currently unidentified reckless driver speeding through Davidson at twice the posted speed limit was found to have damaged headstones at the Christian Aid Society Cemetery on Ridge Road. The Christian Aid Society was founded as a group of black churches in Davidson in 1905 and the cemetery was originally a designated resting place for Davidson’s black community. Although not owned by the college, the Christian Aid Society Cemetery can be found just beyond the baseball field.

A sepia-toned photograph of a black man in a vest and dress slacks standing in front of a columned building

Mr. Enoch Donaldson

Among those whose headstones were desecrated by the reckless driver was Mr. Enoch Donaldson, a man who served Davidson College for decades during the early to mid-twentieth century eventually becoming “Dean of Janitors.” Donaldson was born after the Emancipation Proclamation marked the start of the abolition of slavery. Although the exact date of Donaldson’s birth is unknown, he was born in 1867 according to his death certificate. He passed away at the age of approximately 95 on February 25, 1962.

Throughout Donaldson’s lifetime of service to Davidson College, the town and the institution examined and changed racist policies. According to the 1870 census, only 630 of the 1,605 residents of the town of Davidson were black. During his early childhood, in 1875, Davidson College students were granted the requests made in a petition to “keep out of the College all colored persons to whom express permissions had not been given to enter or labor there.” The only exceptions were those who attended church on campus and two men, Jim Burton and George Wilson, who were employed as laborers. Towards the end of his life, campus conversations regarding integration and civil rights became increasingly accepting of interracial connections. In the 1950s, Louis Armstrong performed at the college three times and Otis Redding visited once to perform in 1961.

In February 1961, a year prior to Donaldson’s death, the Board of Trustees voted to integrate the college, a decision which was poorly received by the majority of students and local residents. Unfortunately, Mr. Enoch Donaldson did not live to see the campus’ welcome to Ben Nzengu, the student who broke the color barrier, in the fall of 1962.

The life of Mr. Enoch Donaldson offers unique perspective and appreciation of the black slaves and laborers whose tireless, lifelong efforts built the foundation of Davidson College. Those curious to learn more about Mr. Donaldson’s life can read his story here: Born after Freedom.

Headstone reading: ENOCH DONALDSON  BORN AFTER FREEDOM  DIED FEBRUARY 25, 1962  AGE ABOUT 95 YEARS  FOR JUST UNDER A CENTURY, SON, FATHER, HUSBAND,CHURCH FATHER & FRIEND   ROMANS 5:3-4  ERECTED IN HONOR OF A LIFE LIVED

Headstone of Mr. Enoch Donaldson

The maintenance of the Christian Aid Society and its cemetery is integral to the preservation of the legacy of black existence and influence in the Davidson community. The Society is in need of contributions to aid restoration of the historic burial site. Those interested in contributing may write a check to the Christian Aid Society and mail it to Davidson Christian Aid Society, PO Box 1323, Davidson NC 28036.

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