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African Americans in the Monticola 1957-1964

1957 | 1958 | 1959 | 1960 | 1961 | 1962 | 1963 | 1964

     This exhibit consists of photos of African American students from the West Virginia University's yearbook, the Monticola 1957-1964. 1957 was the year African Americans noticeably appeared in the Monticola. Whenever possible, identification from the Monticola is included with the photos. Below is a brief history of desegregation and integration at WVU.

Desegregation at WVU

 

     The following accounts of racial tension and integration are excerpts from the book West Virginia University: Symbol of Unity in a Sectionalized State.

Brown et al. v. Board of Education

     Without hesitation, the Stewart administration accepted in 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on integration of the races in the nation's schools (207).

     Irvin Stewart was the 13th President of WVU from 1946-1958. The Brown decision was made on May 17, 1954.

     ...Stewart wrote on May 21 to the office of the Attorney General pointing out that WVU before the recent ruling had admitted only West Virginia Negroes to the graduate and professional programs not offered at West Virginia State or Bluefield State Colleges. He asked two pertinent questions: (1) Whether West Virginia University should now admit West Virginia Negroes to courses of study offered either at West Virginia State or at Bluefield? (2) Whether there was any obligation to admit out-of-state Negroes to any of the University programs?...

     In answer to Stewart's first question, the Attorney General on June 1, 1954, stated that WVU should admit any person who applied for admission, regardless of race, provided that such applicant fulfilled all of the requirements then prescribed for entry. He also was of the same opinion that no prospective out-of-state student could be refused entry because of his race so long as he met the requirements set forth for out-of-state students generally.

     Stewart promptly informed the president of the Board of Governors that he was putting the ruling into immediate effect for the Summer Session. "It is probable," he said on June 2, " that we shall have one or more Negroes in our classes in the elementary school and in the University High School. If this is the case, these will probably be the first Negro children to attend public schools on a non-segregated basis in West Virginia." And without incident, West Virginia University, in contrast to its southern neighbors, was integrated as a result of Stewart's prompt, but unadvertised, action (212).

The Athenaeum and the Greeks: 1964

     Conspicuous in the traditional behavior of fraternities and sororities was a failure to pledge blacks or foreign, and the Daily Athenaeum on November 11, 1964, felt compelled to investigate this social phenomenon. It found that while no sorority had pledged a Negro in campus history, presidents of at least half of the University's eleven sororities would condone non-white membership "if the right girl were to come along." All fraternities seemed to feel that fellow members should be chosen on an individual basis, that the social issues should not be "forced," and that assigning members to a fraternity in behalf of "forced integration" would wreck the purposes of the organizations.

     Not only the WVU president but also the University Senate was disturbed by such discrimination and debated a resolution on February 9, 1965, that the University should withdraw recognition and support, either direct or indirect from any sorority, fraternity, or other student group or association which, through its constitution or bylaws or any other governing document, denied membership on the basis of race, color, religion, or ethnic origin. The Athenaeum sought Greek reaction to the Senate proposal. Eight sororities would not comment, indicating that information on the matter could be obtained from their national headquarters. Sixteen of the eighteen fraternity presidents stated that their national organizations already eliminated all discriminatory clauses from their constitutions (266-7).

The Confederate Flag and the Greek Challenge to Integrate

     In the fall of 1965, University officials forbade Kappa Alpha Fraternity to fly its well-known Confederate flag from the chapter house, at football games, thuses, or on any other public occasions. The first had been demanded by the athletic department, the the KA's response was to was to unfurl their familiar symbol in full view at the WVU-Syracuse game on November 1965. When ordered by University authorities to wrap their flag in moth balls, Kappa Alpha grudgingly agreed.

     In some respects, the fraternal organizations could be counted on to battle discrimination. The Panhellenic Council was on record on October 25, 1962, as asking students not to patronize Pike's Restaurant because it was the only establishment in Morgantown discriminating against Negroes and foreigners. Four days later, the the Associated Women Students' Executive Council also suggested a boycott because it felt that other restaurants with leanings toward racial discrimination might be dissuaded from taking a stand similar to Pike's (267-8).

"Can't even get a haircut in this town"

     It remained for a Negro student, Michael Woodson, to identify the kind of life blacks led in the University city when he stated on November 23, 1967, "I can't even get a haircut in this town." He calculated that because of the white Greek system, 100 Negro students on campus enjoyed no social life. "Once in a while," he said, "we Negroes get together, but we have to go to the Holiday Inn to have a party, For one thing, there is a shortage of Negro girls on the campus, and most of the guys have no dates. So they sit around and drink beer. That's all we can do. (268)."

Pre-1970s

     Before the arrival of the 1970s, the first predominantly Negro but integrated fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, was expected to receive its charter on the WVU campus. Initiated on April 30, 1969, by blacks who were previously undergraduates at Bluefield State College, the chapter was designed to give "Negroes a group to belong to" if they "wanted to enter the Greek system." Earlier, on January 27, 1967, the University had denied permission for a Negro sorority on the basis of a ban forbidding any segregated group on the campus (268-9).

Recommended Reading

Clark, Jean., McCormick, Theresa. Monongalia Blacks speak of today and yesterday. Morgantown, W.Va.: Monongalia County Board of Education, 1977.

Doherty, William T., Jr. and Festus P. Summers. West Virginia University: Symbol of Unity in a Sectionalized State. West Virginia University Press: Morgantown WV, 1982.

Rice, Connie Park. Our Monongalia: a history of African Americans in Monongalia County. West Virginia. Terra Alta, WV: Headline Books, Inc., 1999.

Williams, Ellis Ray. Contacts of negroes and whites in Morgantown. Thesis (M.A.)--West Virginia University, 1952.

Racism Persists in the Greek System: Fraternities and Blackface

"Auburn's Long Road to Diversity." By: Yates, Eleanor Lee., Black
Issues in Higher Education
, 12/19/2002, Vol. 20 Issue 22, p8, 2p, 1c

"UVA Latest in String of Blackface Incidents." By: Hamilton,
Kendra., Black Issues in Higher Education, 12/19/2002, Vol. 20 Issue 22, p10, 2/3p

"Syracuse Suspends Fraternity After Blackface Incident." Black
Issues in Higher Education
, 6/6/2002, Vol. 19 Issue 8, p17, 2/3p

"'Free Speech' Becomes Primary Issue in Auburn 'Blackface' Case." By: Lords, Erik., Black Issues in Higher Education, 12/20/2001, Vol. 18 Issue 22, p11, 1p

"An Ugly Tradition Persists at Southern Fraternity Parties". By: Bartlett, Thomas., Chronicle of Higher Education, 11/30/2001, Vol. 48 Issue 14, pA33, 2p, 4c

"Virginia: Fraternity Party's Hangover." The New York Times, December 4, 2002, Section A; Page 26; Column 2.

"U-Va. Frats Cleared in Blackface Incident." The Washington Post, December 03, 2002, Pg. A15. Amy Argetsinger, Washington Post Staff Writer.

"Frats suspended over blackface costumes." The San Diego Union-Tribune, November 21, 2002, Pg. A-14.

"Two U-Va. Fraternities Suspended Over Photos; Images of Halloween
Party Guests in Blackface Were Posted on Web Site." The Washington Post, November 20, 2002, Pg.B01. Amy Argetsinger, Washington Post Staff Writer.

"Photos of mock lynching at Halloween party leads to suspensions at white Auburn U. frats." Jet v. 100 no. 25 (December 3 2001) p. 24-5.

 

"Outrage continues over fraternities' racially offensive costumes." Lords, Erik.
Black Issues in Higher Education v. 18 no. 21 (December 6 2001) p. 10-