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November 15, 1952
Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

November 15, 1952

Guest post by Aggy Barnowski, undergraduate student at University of Richmond.

I selected the November 15, 1952, article from the Norfolk Journal and Guide titled “Teachers Quit White School On Account of Race Bias: Resign In Protest of Segregation, University Board Refuses to Admit Negro Students.” This article states that eight white teachers at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, resigned due to the university’s continuous commitment to segregation. The teachers who resigned included Cean Craighill Brown, dean of the theological school, Assistant Professor Robert McNair, Rev. Claude Guthrie, Rev. Robert Lansing Hicks, Rev. Howard Johnson, James Reddick, Rev. Fred Shafer, and Rev. Richard Hooker Wilmer, who was the chaplain of the university. On June 7, the board of trustees decided it would be “inadvisable” to desegregate such a small school. While the School of Theology was integrated in 1951 by a resolution by the university’s synod, the board of trustees’ rejection of that resolution caused these faculty members to resign.148

I found this article particularly interesting after beginning to explore the University of Richmond’s history. After reading this article, it made me realize that the photographs of John and Robert Alley’s University of Richmond did not look at the possibility that beyond the powerful donors, board members, and leaders of the university, the faculty, staff, and students may have had very different opinions on segregation.149 In the article on the University of the South, a harsh light shines on the unfair advantage powerful white leaders such as the board of trustees had on the decision regarding whether to desegregate. However, the faculty members were able to make a powerful statement through their decision to resign. It did not cause the university to change its stance on segregation right away, but the resignation of faculty brought publicity to the university’s racist ideals. The board revoked its decision a year later, in May 1953.

The board of trustees’ decision to not advise desegregation in the University of the South relates to what I had previously learned about African-American history. The article was published while there were five cases on behalf of Farmville, Virginia, students that led to the first Brown v. Board of Education decision.150 When the Supreme Court produced the second part of Brown v. Board of Education (1955), it stated, “Integration of the schools must proceed with all deliberate speed. The mood of opposition in Virginia and the rest of the South escalated.”151 It is important to note that Brown did not even occur until 1954, and the second part of the decision did not come until 1955. The article on the University of the South came before the Brown decision, when many white individuals in the South could be seen as aggressively trying to maintain segregation. However, this commitment to segregation was not isolated in the University of the South. The University of Richmond, as shown in Alley’s photographs, also did not desegregate until more than ten years later after this article was written.