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Cities: Rome

Berry College and the Council on Human Relations

Late in 1960, students from Berry College exchanged research materials with African American students on the campus of Atlanta’s all-male Morehouse College, an institutional member of the Atlanta University Center. Soon after, the Berry contingent decided to show their appreciation by hosting Morehouse students at their Rome campus. Dr. John Bertrand, President of Berry College from 1956 to 1979, and William Gordon, associate professor of speech, invited the Morehouse group to visit. Word spread about these plans, sparking a protest against the goodwill gesture, led by members of the local Ku Klux Klan and Rome's Citizens Council, along with a handful of Berry College Students.

In lieu of hosting the Morehouse students, Bertrand quickly assembled the Berry College community to deliver an address. On April 28, 1961, he delivered a talk entitled “Beyond Racism” to reminded the audience of Berry's Christian foundation. He encouraged them to replace prejudice and violence with tolerance and understanding. Bertrand may have understood in a new way the challenges he confronted on campus, and the obstacles that he and other moderate activists and community leaders surmounted, in trying to bring about peaceful social change in their area of the state. Just a few months earlier, The University of Georgia had very nearly seen its doors closed by state politicians when two African American students from Atlanta, Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes, attempted to enroll. Riots had erupted on the Athens campus, and many members of the white mob inciting violence had not even been taking classes at the university.

That same year in Atlanta, Frances Pauley, an established social justice crusader, accepted a position as Executive Director of the Georgia Council on Human Relations. The Council had been initiated by the Atlanta-based Southern Regional Council (SRC), which grew out of the earlier Commission on Interracial Cooperation (CIC) which had formed to eradicate racial tensions during World War I. During World War II, the CIC dissolved and the SRC stepped in. Chartered in 1944, the organizers of the SRC originally established the Georgia Council as a bi-racial group committed to a philosophy of equal opportunity. It did not directly address the issue of segregation. By the time Pauley joined the Georgia Council, the SRC had begun to question the legality of Jim Crow regulations through the formation of state and local chapters of the Council on Human Relations. As director, Pauley hired Oliver Wendell Holmes, a black minister in Savannah and an Atlanta native, as Assistant Director.

During her tenure as Executive Director, Pauley received word of Berry's rejection of Morehouse students and their cancelled visit. Eighteen days later, she traveled to Rome to meet with local residents to form a Rome chapter of the Georgia Council. After the Council's organization in 1961, Pauley expanded her network to include middle- and lower middle-class African Americans.

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Discussion Questions

1. What effects, if any, did integration have on student enrollments and teacher hires among southern HBCUs? To answer this question, select an HBCU from the list below. Research and compare its numbers of students and faculty in 1920, 1940, 1960, 1980, and 2000. What evidence can you find that attributes any significant increases or decreases in student enrollments to integration? Refine your comparison by observing the numbers of male and female students over these years. What discrepancies based on gender, if any, do you notice among the students, and what may be the reasons for any differences you observe?

Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University
Bennett College
Clark Atlanta University
Dillard University
Fisk University

Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University      
Grambling State University
Morehouse College
North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University

Spelman College
Tuskegee University
Xavier University

2. Read the article "President Emeritus Bertrand Dies" from the Berry Chronicle archives, which discusses Dr. Bertrand's contributions to Berry. What factors do you think led to his moderate stance on integration at Berry and in Rome's public schools?

3. In 1961, Koji Yoda became the first international student fully enrolled at Berry College, three years before the college welcomed African American students. Why do you think students enrolled in southern colleges would have preferred to share classrooms with students from other countries rather than African Americans?

Take it to the Streets!

Recent scholarship has expanded the timeframe of the Civil Rights Movement to include the 1940s. Read the article about the Commission on Interracial Cooperation (CIC) in the New Georgia Encyclopedia. Write a one-page essay that addresses the merits of tracing the beginning of the long Civil Rights Movement to the post-World War I era.

Writer: Lavada Dillard
Editors and Researchers: Laura Anderson, Christina L. Davis, Lavada Dillard, Mary Boyce Hicks, and Professor Barbara McCaskill
Web Site Designer: William Weems

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