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Civil Rights

University Stories of Their Racist Histories

When: June 9, 2021, 1:00 pm - Wednesday

Where: Ezell 232

Session 1

Session Abstract

Complicity with slavery and then later with the Jim Crow oppression of African Americans is part of the history of American higher education, including the first public institutions and later those associated with the Stone-Campbell Movement. Efforts to come to terms with the past—admitting African American students, desegregating the institutions in all respects—has repeatedly encountered resistance and remains an unfinished endeavor.

 

Paper Abstracts

Timothy Bench, Abilene, Texas, “Carl Spain and the 1960 Abilene Christian College Lectureships”

This paper discusses the prohibition of African-American students from Abilene Christian College until 1960, when Dr. Carl Spain courageously and publicly condemned the practice. Spain’s efforts resulted in the university changing its admission policies in 1961, allowing African-American students to enroll, ending years of race-based rejection of student applicants. Dr. Spain’s resolve to apply Biblical consistency and racial equality served to open the doors of higher education for untold thousands of minority students in the decades to come.  His unwavering bravery in the face of professional rejection and persecution should serve as a beacon of inspiration to us even today.

 

Jason Fikes, Director, Abilene Christian University Press, “President Sewell, White Supremacy and the Formative Years of Abilene Christian College”

Abstract: In 1922, the Klu Klux Klan offered their praise and commendation to Abilene Christian College for the good work being done at the school as they interrupted a gospel meeting being led by President Jesse Sewell. While Klan visits to churches were relatively common in this era, recent scholars have suggested that White supremacists had relatively little influence among Churches of Christ. Were these visitors intruders, tolerated outsiders, or welcome guests? And what kind of legacy did their appearance have, if any.

 

Patrice Preston Grimes, University of Virginia, Emerita, “Remembrance and the Power of Place:  Reframing the Narrative on Race at the University of Virginia”

This presentation describes the process that the University of Virginia undertook to acknowledge and address its complex racial history, and specifically, its historical treatment of enslaved and free African-Americans. The President’s Commission on Slavery and the University (PCSU) leveraged university and local community resources to document the vital role of African-Americans from the university’s beginnings. Findings from the PCSU highlighted the challenges, as well as opportunities, in changing the narrative of race relations across the university and to the broader community. The goal of this multi-year commission was to generate a call-to-action towards institutional reconciliation and repair.

 

Gary Jones, Oklahoma Christian University, “Power to the People (Well Not “Those” People): Race & Religion at Oklahoma Christian University”

The intersectionality of race and religion at Oklahoma Christian University has proven to be a place of comfort, discomfort, silence, and screaming – all at the same time. To many, it was a safe space to allow for the uninterrupted growth nationalism, mislabeled as “Christianity.” From the exclusion from admission, to the worship spaces named after well-known racists, to even having a recruiter line up prospective students of color by lip size, OC’s resume speaks for itself.  No experience, however, is more gripping than the 1969 arrest and dismissal of 18 students – a culmination of years of struggle.

 

William Lofton Turner, Lipscomb University, “Evolving and Contrasting Racial Narratives in Four Nashville Universities: Lipscomb University, Vanderbilt University, Belmont University, and Trevecca Nazarene University”

Nashville is the home of seven universities, including three Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and four Predominately White Universities (PWUs). This paper will examine the evolution of racial diversity and inclusion efforts at the four PWUs and will highlight the contrasts in approaches to how they have chosen to convey their diversity and inclusion stories. An exploration of possible drivers and motivations for varying approaches will be examined.

Speakers

Joel E. Anderson, University of Arkansas, Little Rock, Chancellor Emeritus, Convener

  • Timothy Bench, Abilene, Texas, “Carl Spain and the 1960 Abilene Christian College Lectureships”
  • Jason Fikes, Abilene Christian University Press, “President Sewell, White Supremacy and the Formative Years of Abilene Christian College”
  • Patrice Preston Grimes, University of Virginia, Emerita, “Remembrance and the Power of Place: Reframing the Narrative on Race at the University of Virginia”
  • Gary Jones, Oklahoma Christian University, “Power to the People (Well Not “Those” People): Race & Religion at Oklahoma Christian University”
  • William Lofton Turner, Lipscomb University, “Evolving and Contrasting Racial Narratives in Four Nashville Universities: Lipscomb University, Vanderbilt University, Belmont University, and Trevecca Nazarene University”

2022 CSC Info Coming Soon

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James Cone with conferee at the CSC in 2017

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