The call for the integration of the African-American experience into the curriculum and student body at UNH arose during a time of extreme social unrest in the United States.
The Civil Rights Era brought many social issues to the fore, including racial discrimination, gender discrimination, and military conscription. The speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., racial rioting across the nation, and the assassinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy all stimulated action.
Some civil rights workers lost their lives in an attempt to ensure that all Americans could exercise equal rights. Some citizens were still being prevented from exercising their right to vote through intimidation and technicalities. Employers and landlords practiced discrimination, both blatant and subtle. Young men were drafted to fight an unpopular war in Vietnam.
Since academic institutions provide a forum for the analysis of critical social issues, American universities responded to the civil rights movement with the conscious inclusion of diverse populations beginning at San Francisco State. There, in February, 1968, a coordinator of black studies was hired following a five month strike.
Other institutions followed with changes in curriculum and student/faculty population in the late 1960s, including the University of New Hampshire in 1969. At UNH as at other campuses, change did not come easily. Administrative offices were taken over; academics went on strike; rhetoric became heated and threatening.
This exhibit highlights the actions of faculty, students, and administrators at UNH in addressing one of the challenging issues of their time.
Call for Change
After UNH Director of Admissions, Leslie Lafond, toured southern black high schools with admissions directors from Smith, Bowdoin, Springfield, and Colby in the summer of 1966, UNH faculty and administrators met to organize a program for identifying and recruiting students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
As a result, the College Opportunity Program Experiment (COPE) began operations at UNH in September, 1967. Ten students were admitted in the first year, and numbers increased slowly over several years. Students were referred by high school guidance counselors.
The program was initially funded by the University, but organizers later sought federal and other outside funding. By 1968, the program included students from southern states.
The Sidore Lecture series sponsored a three day symposium on human rights at UNH in December 1967. Speakers discussed "Black and White Power" and the need for self-determination among black Americans.
The following year the University hosted a symposium entitled, "The Role of the University in Social Crises." The Vietnam War, racism, and poverty figured prominently in the discussions intended to explore UNH's role in social change in the state. Participants critiqued the University's performance in "educational, research, and community service activities."
By spring 1968, specific proposals for change appeared across campus. More than 40 students joined together as an "Afro-American" students' organization led by Sanford Moore. Their goal was to increase awareness in the community and to "agitate for improvement."
Changes they proposed included:
- Increase enrollment of black students at UNH
- Hire five new black faculty members
- Establish a Martin Luther King Memorial Scholarship
- Obtain in-state tuition for all black students
- Introduce curriculum changes in black history, arts, and sciences
President John McConnell favored all the proposals except in-state tuition for out-of-state black students since it would violate state law.
Student & Faculty Activism
In addition to the Afro-American students, other members of the UNH community in 1968 called for significant change. Students, faculty, and administrators wrestled with issues of student participation in the governance process through a reorganization of the University Senate. Students wanted stronger representation in decision-making processes.
Student interest groups, including the Student Political Union and the Afro-American Student Union, formed and then splintered into radical and moderate factions.
Many people desired a similar outcome, but most disagreed on methods and process. Students who converged on President McConnell in T-Hall in November, 1968 disagreed among themselves as they staged a "symbolic demonstration" against the NH legislature and William Loeb of the Manchester Union Leader.
According to The New Hampshire, Prof. Robert Craig spoke to the Memorial Union Students Organization in 1968 and urged student activists to, "Get in there, do what you have to do, and go like hell." Craig was referring to racial issues in voting and the choice of Presidential candidates in the United States.
In the spring of 1969, the Joint Student-Faculty Board on Black Student Affairs at UNH presented to the University Senate a five page proposal for a Black Studies program at UNH. The report called for:
- Recruitment of black students, faculty, and administrators
- Curricular changes
The proposal was unanimously approved in March, 1969, with a statement delivered by Professor Paul Brockelman of the philosophy department.
When Prof. David Larson raised the issue of funding, supporters replied that "federal aid, foundations, and private sources will make contributions." Larson's concern for funding proved to be a valid one. By 1970, Prof. John T. Holden, chair of the Senate ad hoc committee for funding, stated that letters would be sent to all employees of the University requesting they contribute money to support Black Studies programs. Holden managed to collect about $8000, hardly enough to run a program.
Before finalizing their response to the recommendations of the Black Student Affairs Report, the University trustees set up guidelines for recruiting more black students and administrators. Thirty black students were enrolled in the fall of 1969 and two black administrators were hired. UNH had hired several black faculty members.
Myrna Adams, the first black administrator at UNH, was hired as assistant to the Academic Vice President. Mrs. Adams, who came to UNH from Chicago City College (Malcolm X University), counseled black students and helped facilitate financial aid for them.
Adams saw her responsibilities as both providing educational opportunities for black students and integrating cultural differences present nationwide into the local community of UNH. Both the students and UNH should benefit from the experience.
James Johnson, former guidance counselor at an all-black high school in Virginia, took the position of Assistant Director of Admissions. His charge included the recruitment of black students as requested in the Black Student Affairs Report.
Johnson emphasized that he was not creating a special program for black students. His goal was to empower black students to thrive in "regular University pursuits." Many of those students did thrive. Among those former students are now a director of human resources, a director of behavioral medicine, and an advertising executive who recruits minorities in his industry.
In January 1970, the trustees issued operating guidelines for the recruitment program:
- Students admitted must be capable of meeting the academic standards of UNH
- Financial support should not be taken from other programs already in operation
- A larger number of "Negro students" should be admitted, but there should be no quota
- "Strenuous efforts" should be made to see that black students are provided with the assistance they need to succeed in their college programs
Despite the unanimous approval of the proposed Black Studies Program and the recruitment of black students at UNH, a number of problems hindered progress of both initiatives. This led to the formal disbandment of the Black Student Program by President Thomas Bonner in January, 1972.
Sanford Moore, student member of the Black Student/Faculty Board, criticized the low number (38) of black students admitted when the program was expected to admit 100-150 students. Moore also criticized UNH's failure to admit students he felt were qualified.
Board member and University Executive Vice President Jere Chase answered that the program would take time to establish and that no student would be admitted solely on the basis of color. Prospective students needed to show some potential to succeed in the program. Chase indicated concern that Moore had made no effort to discuss the problems. Again, all participants wanted a successful program, but they disagreed on methods, procedures, and standards.
NH Governor Walter Peterson described NH citizens as skeptical of the program because they felt the needs of in-state students should take priority over out-of-state recruits. Peterson praised projects at Dartmouth that intervened with disadvantaged students at a much earlier age. He felt students brought into the college environment unprepared were not being done any favors. Peterson also expressed concern over the influence of the Manchester Union Leader. He felt many of the newspaper's readers believed in the newspaper's "parochial attitude" and promised publicity to counter it.
Student Wayne Worcester, contributing editor to The New Hampshire, cited that UNH received only 50% of the federal funding it needed to fully launch the program. He quoted black student Sanford Moore who expressed his frustration at any delays in the program and warned there could be "trouble." Worcester noted that both Jere Chase and Sanford Moore agreed that the Black Student/Faculty Board interviewed potential recruits. However, Moore and Chase disagreed over how heavily the opinions of black members of the board were being weighed by the administration. Board members included graduate student Donald Land, faculty member Lester Fisher, and staff member Mrs. Sarah Curwood.
The problems above continued unabated for several years as administrator Myrna Adams cited the following problems in 1971:
- Neither federal nor private funds were readily available
- Black faculty were scarce and attracted premium salaries
- Numbers of students recruited never reached targeted goals
- Blacks in Durham were perceived as frightening or exotic
- Supportive administrators left UNH (Jere Chase among them)
- Two black administrators were an insufficient number to support the program
Despite the formal end of the Black Student Program at UNH in 1972 and a consequent lag in recruitment of black students, the issue of diversity in education remains a high priority at the University of New Hampshire.
The problem of race in American culture appeared at UNH in 1968-1972 with all the symptoms and pains also present across the nation. Whites saw blacks as too impatient; blacks saw whites as too cautious. Racial perspectives and issues still engage the UNH community, but they now accompany concerns for other members of the community as well.
- 1972: Commission on the Status of Women was established.
- 1985: Dr. Carmen Buford became the first high-ranking African-American administrator.
- 1990: The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs was founded.
- 1991: An affirmative action plan was created to increase numbers of women and minority faculty and staff.
- 1997: The President's Commission on the Status of People of Color was established.
- 2001: The President's Commission on the Status of GLBT Issues was created.
- 2005: The first Vice Provost for Diversity, Dr. Wanda Mitchell, was appointed.
As San Francisco State University noted in its action plan for multicultural perspectives in the curriculum, multicultural education is not a "fixed fact." The scholarly mission of a university is to prepare its students to engage in critical inquiry and collaborative pursuit of knowledge in a changing and diverse world. Sharing and understanding perspectives of race, class, gender, ability, and age are essential to that process.
A process that began with black studies and black students at UNH has evolved to promote greater understanding of all human differences in the University community. All of us bear the responsibility for continuing that effort.
This exhibit expands one facet of the 2007 UNH Library exhibit, "The Black Presence at UNH." Since that exhibit merely mentioned the introduction of the African-American experience into the curriculum and population at UNH beginning in the late 1960s, the story begged explication. This online look at the first conscious efforts to bring a more diverse population to the UNH campus resulted.
Since the terminology used to distinguish race in America is not scientific and changes with the times, I've used the words common during the period in question. Capitalization of the word black remains a controversy. I capitalized neither black nor white. I am solely responsible for any mistakes in this exhibit and welcome corrections.
Since I have an abiding interest in race in America and no fear of microfilm, I did most of the research and the writing. Without Amie Familgetti's technical expertise, this exhibit would never have happened. Amie did the web work with the guidance of Rob Wolff. Jennifer Carroll provided research support and faculty expertise. We thank Prof. Elizabeth Slomba for providing us a space on the University Archives website. Our thanks also go to Mylinda Woodward and Meredith Ricker.
San Francisco State University, Africana Studies Department, http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~afrs/
Photograph, University Archives, Milne Special Collections and Archives, c.1970
The Call for Change
"COPE" Extends Recruiting to Southern Students." The New Hampshire, October 4, 1968
"Eleven Speakers Here For 'Social Crises' Symposium." The New Hampshire, October 11, 1968
Photograph of President McConnell. The New Hampshire, October 29, 1968
"Campus Blacks Organize to Create Community Awareness." The New Hampshire, October 11, 1968
Photograph of Bruce Bynum. The New Hampshire, May 9, 1969
"T-Hall 'Stand-in' Draws 250, SPU Splits." The New Hampshire, November 1, 1968
Photograph of Willie Halsey. The New Hampshire, November 1, 1968
Report of the Joint Student-Faculty Board on Black Student Affairs at U.N.H. University Archives, Milne Special Collections and Archives
"Black Studies Report Examined." The New Hampshire, March 21, 1969
"Black Studies Passed Unanimously." The New Hampshire, March 25, 1969
"Student-Faculty Senate Plan Unveiled." The New Hampshire, November 12, 1968
"Craig Tells Activists 'Go Like Hell'." The New Hampshire, September 27, 1968
"More than 500 Students Ask for Larger Role in University Government." The New Hampshire, March 6, 1968
"Student Assembly Planned." The New Hampshire, March 1, 1968
"Symposium Stresses Negro Action." The New Hampshire, December 15, 1967
Photograph of Myrna Adams. The New Hampshire, November 14, 1969
Photograph of James Johnson. The New Hampshire, September 26, 1969
"UNH Recruits More Blacks Under Trustee Guidelines." The New Hampshire, September 26, 1969
"Trustees Establish Guidelines." University Archives, Milne Special Collections and Archives, January 1970
Adams, Myrna C., Report to the University Senate on Black Student Affairs, December 31, 1969. University Archives, Milne Special Collections and Archives
"Black Student Affairs Seeks Funds, Sense of Community." The New Hampshire, February 27, 1970
"State Wary of Black Affairs says Peterson." The New Hampshire, September 26, 1969
"Black Studies Has Problems." The New Hampshire. May 2, 1969
"Black Student Affairs Seeks Funds, Sense of Continuity." The New Hampshire, February 27, 1970
"Developments in Funding Black Student Programs." Campus Journal, vol.VIII, no.25, June 3, 1970. University Archives, Milne Special Collections and Archives.
San Francisco State University, Academic Senate Policy s92-179, Position Statement and Plan of Action: Multicultural Perspectives in the Curriculum, approved May 9, 1992, accessed at http://www.sfsu.edu/~senate/documents/policies/S92-179.html