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

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

Stage Six: : A New Direction

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

  1. The Sixth Stage: A New Direction

Two areas of the new curriculum implemented in 1970-1971 dealt specifically with the interracial commitment. First, Issues and Values, a new required freshman core course, was added to the General Education curriculum so all students would be exposed to the Christian, Appalachian, and interracial commitments from an academic perspective. Its goals included examining current issues, the Christian commitment and the role of values. Black America and Appalachia issues were two of the continuing issues (Curriculum Committee 1969 5).51 In the fall of 1982, Issues and Values was replaced by Freshman Seminar, a course to involve all freshmen, “in a critical study of the topic Freedom and Justice as it relates to the commitments of Berea College, to Appalachia, the Christian faith, the kinship of all people, or the dignity of labor” (Berea College Catalog 1987-1989).52 Each section of the course dealt with only two of the Great Commitments; a decision made by the specific faculty member. For many years, less than fifty percent of the sections dealt with the interracial education commitment.

Second, a cultural area requirement was added and “structured to acknowledge the plurality of cultures and our need to understand them, and to help us meet our commitment to the brotherhood of man” (Curriculum Committee 1969).53 The requirement could be fulfilled by successfully completing three levels of foreign language or one cultural area course in either Black or Appalachian culture and one in non-Western culture. A study in 1987 revealed that the overwhelming majority of the students chose to avoid the Black Studies course and enroll in an Appalachian Studies course. In the fall of 1988, students not choosing the foreign language option were required to complete a Black Studies course, an Appalachian Studies course, and a non-Western course.

The number of Black students enrolled at Berea College fluctuated during the fifth stage. The high was 152 in 1973, but dropped to 88 in 1974. On a percentage basis, the low was in 1982 when there were 89 Black students who composed 5.6% of the 1,588 students in the student body [Self-Study 1983-1984 72].54 Also, during this stage, the first Black faculty were granted tenure: Cleophus Charles (History) in January 1982 and Betty Olinger (Nursing) in January 1983.

In November 1979, Weatherford appointed a committee to determine what programs should exist at Berea College in order to attempt to reduce the amount of prejudice and misunderstanding. The mandate of the committee was “to develop a recommendation on steps the college should take in its interracial program to more effectively carry out the commitment to equality and brotherhood” (Weatherford Nov. 30, 1979).55 The committee recommended that the college “establish a Black Studies Center with staffing and responsibilities comparable to the Appalachian Studies Center” created in 1970 “to stimulate and coordinate course offerings on Afro-American culture in various departments, to encourage off-campus programs and experience for students which will serve to enhance the understanding of Black culture, and to develop institutional relationships with other organizations which share the Berea commitment to racial equality and multi-cultural understanding” (Berea’s Interracial Committee 9).56

This recommendation led to the creation of the Black Cultural Center and Interracial Education Program (BCCIEP) in July 1983. The BCCIEP was to serve as a source of renewal and cultural affirmation for Blacks, attempt to build common bonds among the races, and focus attention on the issues of integration and equality in the college community and the world at large (Black Cultural Center and Interracial Education Program Brochure).57 The long, “cumbersome and confusing” title revealed the division on campus about its mission.

The sixth stage ended in 1984 when Weatherford retired. When he departed there was still division on campus about interracial education, but the tension was much less as Bereans, Black and White, peaceably searched for solutions.

Works Cited - stage six

(Complete Works Cited List available)

51Berea College. “Folder of Curriculum Committee, 1969,” Berea College Archives.

52Berea College. “Berea College Catalog,” 1987-1989.

53Curriculum Committee, 1969.

54Berea College. Self-Study 1983-1984, 72.

55Weatherford, Willis. November 30, 1979.

56Berea College. Interracial Committee, 9.

57Black Cultural Center and Interracial Education Program Brochure.

PDF of the complete essay