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Integration at Spring Hill College: Racial Integration and the Campus Community

The Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision on May 17, 1954, defined African-Americans' rights to attend all-white universities previously. Despite the federal ruling, integration was met with immediate opposition by many universities in the South. Many Southern schools remained segregated until the 1970s. However, remembering only violent opposition to desegregation presents an incomplete picture. 

Spring Hill College had considered desegregation before Brown, but while they agreed "in the principle underlying the move" they chose to "be regulated by local customs."
The decision to admit eight African-American students in 1954 was barely mentioned in Mobile's newspapers. 

1955 Glee Club at Dedication of Walsh Memorial Hall

Photo Courtesy of Spring Hill College Archives and Special Collections

Section of Glee Club at 1956 Commencement

Photo Courtesy of Spring Hill College Archives and Special Collections

1956 Motley Staff: Seated - Frank O'Hara, John Conover (editor), John Sanroma. Standing - Fr. Walsh (Moderator), Bob Buchanan.

Photo Courtesy of Spring Hill College Archives and Special Collections

1956 "The Inn Keepers" dance band

Photo Courtesy of Spring Hill College Archives and Special Collections

1956 Alpha Sigma Nu, Elbert LaLande (standing, far left)

Photo Courtesy of Spring Hill College Archives and Special Collections

Springhillian

When Spring Hill College became a coeducational school in 1952, the Springhillian lauded photos of the co-eds on virtually every front page. However, when the college desegregated, the paper did not show a single African-American student nor published any articles on the topic. Like local newspapers, the Springhillian did not report on the desegregation. 

It wasn't the following May that the Springhillian featured an African American student. 

While the Springhillian did not report on the desegregation of the college's campus, the African American students were allowed onto the newspaper's staff. Rob Buchanan '57 became the News Editor in 1956 after being on the Sports Staff in 1955.

Campus Community

When the college desegregated, the real work of integration was left to the daily choices of the student body. African-American students joined the white students in the classroom.

Fr. Foley wrote a report in 1955, a year after desegregation on the status of integration at Spring Hill based on interviews with 14 of the African-American students at the school and several of their white peers.

The report notes that segregation was not practiced in the seating arrangements in lounging areas, and the majority of the African American students felt welcome in all of their classes. The students felt free to join campus organizations and attended parties without incident. At one Sodality dance, one of the white boys invited one African American girl to dance with him. 
Although most of the students said they had pleasant interactions with the white students, two students experienced direct insults. The incidents were few, and casual conversation and classwork discussion were common.
African American students found that the white students were generally friendly off-campus. The students who often took the bus got rides with white students, and those that drove cars had all given white students rides.