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Berea College and Interracial Education: The First 150 Years: Stage Two

Essay by Andrew Baskin, Associate Professor of African & African American Studies and General Studies

Stage Two: Black and White Together

Berea College and Interracial Education: The First 150 Years - GSTR 210

Students 1901

Table of Contents

  1. The Second Stage: A Change in emphasis

In 1892, William Goodell Frost became Berea’s third president. After his retirement, Frost wrote that he was not sure that he would ever have come to Berea “if it had not been for [his] ancestral and personal interest in befriending the colored race” (Peck and Smith 68).16 However, Frost believed in a different definition of interracial education or co-education of the races as it was known then.

Frost found an institution in financial trouble. In addition to an “air of dilapidation about the place, the vacant rooms in the dormitories, and the empty seats in the classes and the Chapel” (Peck and Smith 48)17, many of the original donors had died and the new donors were interested in serving the Southern Appalachian region, not educating Black students. Frost’s task was finding enough financial support to continue “the peculiar work of Berea.” The number of Black students was decreased and the number of White students was increased to obtain a student body similar to the racial composition of the state of Kentucky, seven Whites for every Black person (Nelson 18).18 Frost felt his actions of a shift in emphasis “appealing more for the mountaineers” (Nelson 25)19 were consistent with the earlier actions of the founders and did not mean that he was not committed to interracial education. In fact, Peck and Smith argue that this shift in emphasis began with Fairchild who gave loving care to his Negro students and paid an increasing attention to the people of the hills (66).20 In a speech in 1895, Frost stated, “We have tried our simple plan for twenty-nine years, and the evil consequences have not come; and our way is the way of the Christian world at large” (Nelson 25).21 In his annual report for 1902, Frost stated that “this College now stands before the public as the representative school for the mountains, as Hampton and Tuskegee stands as the representative institutions for the colored people” (Peck and Smith 72).22 A statement was added to Article II of the school’s constitution in 1911 recognizing the southern mountain area as Berea’s special field (Peck and Smith 79).23

During Frost’s administration, segregation was emphasized on campus. For example, the Board of Trustees rescinded its resolution of 1872 pertaining to interracial dating on campus. Later, Frost remarked that students “did the proper thing by separating themselves by race in their eating and living habits” (Nelson 19).24 Frost stated in regards to hiring a Black professor, “A professorship is not the best place in which to demonstrate the powers of the Negro . . . We shall do [him] poor service . . . if for the sake of having colored professors we lost our chance to instruct mountain youth” (Nelson 21).25

Fee’s viewpoint was clear: Frost was betraying the thoughts and actions of the founders. Fee wrote in 1899,

Let me say that the unique work of Berea College is not ‘effacing sectional lines’ . . . and helping white people or the (“contemporary ancestors in the southern mountains”)… but effacing the barbarous spirit of caste between colored and white at home. Let the friends of Berea College demand faithfulness to the original design of the college. (Nelson 23)26

The on-campus discussion became moot on January 12, 1904, when Representative Carl Day introduced the Day Law in the Kentucky House of Representatives that applied specifically to Berea. It became “unlawful for any person, corporation, or association of persons to maintain or operate any college, school, or institution where persons of the White and Negro races are both received as pupils for instruction” (Peck and Smith 51).27 Initially, Frost considered moving the school to Ohio or West Virginia. However, he was dissuaded from pursuing this option. On November 9, 1908, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Day Law was constitutional. After the decision, Berea became an all White institution. Lincoln Institute, located in Shelby County, Kentucky, was incorporated in 1910 as a school for Negroes.

By the end of the second stage, there were no Black students at Berea College. Outside forces played a crucial role, but Frost was leading the school towards segregation before the Day Law. The only difference was that his method would have taken longer. Frost was a Christian who was primarily interested in the number of White students enrolled at the school. He would accept a ratio of seven Whites to one Black, but not a one to one ratio as existed in the first stage.

Works Cited - stage two

(Complete Works Cited List available)

16Peck and Smith, 68. 378.7691 P366b 1982

17Peck and Smith, 48. 378.7691 P366b 1982

18Nelson, 19. (on-campus full-text access via JSTOR)

19Nelson, 19-20. (on-campus full-text access via JSTOR)

20Peck and Smith, 66. 378.7691 P366b 1982

21Frost, William G. Sectional Lines, a toast, Berea, KY: Students' Press, 1895, 11.

22Peck and Smith, 72. 378.7691 P366b 1982

23Peck and Smith, 79. 378.7691 P366b 1982

24Nelson, 20. (on-campus full-text access via JSTOR)

25Nelson, 21. (on-campus full-text access via JSTOR)

26Nelson, 23. (on-campus full-text access via JSTOR)

27Peck and Smith, 51. 378.7691 P366b 1982

PDF of the complete essay