Weighing the Facts
The integration of Madison College certainly did not go off without a hitch; however, it appears as if the Southern, Conservative culture was largely countered by a more Liberal, college environment historically geared towards educating women. This allowed integration to occur at Madison College with fewer examples of hostility. While Dr. Carrier himself came from a Southern background, he did not grow up in a well-to-do family, and their efforts were not aimed at discrimination, but at surviving. Carrier’s own experience within the field of integration thus helped Madison College work its way into the future of integration (Carrier, 1-5). His efforts to actively recruit African-American students exhibited to the rest of the faculty and student body the normality of the enrollment of minority students. Carrier would treat African-American students the same as any other student at the College, choosing to sit among groups of both black and white students and showing them that integration was necessary (Thomas, 2013).
Dr. Jackie Walker discussed her own experiences in higher education, and she claimed that she faced more discrimination based on her gender than her race. At both Rutgers and Duke, she would be questioned about what business women had in taking certain classes and furthering their education (Walker, 2013). It might have been easier for Madison College to adapt to integration, because it was historically a women’s institution. African-American women were accepted without much regard to their gender, perhaps making it easier for them to combat any hostility against their race. At the same time African-American students were first enrolled at Madison, the school went co-ed as well. While men had been allowed to attend previously, 1966 was the first year in which they were allowed to be full-time students who were housed on campus. The school is, thus, going through multiple changes at once, drawing attention away from integration (Smith, 2013).
In addition, efforts were made to attract African-American students and help them adjust to campus. Dr. Daphyne Thomas was hired into the Office of Admissions in order to recruit minority students to campus, and Jackie Walker was hired into the History Department to provide classes on African-American history. Walker ultimately laid the foundation for the Africana Studies minor the University offers today. In addition, these classes allowed white students to learn more about African-American culture as well, educating and perhaps releasing themselves from past prejudices. The Black Student Alliance and other black instutions, such as the Gospel Choir and Delta Sigma Theta, worked to create a support system for African-Americans adjusting to a historically southern institution. While things were not always perfect, it appears as if Madison was better than Harrisonburg at encouraging integration and certainly better than other southern institutions, ranging from Virginia to Mississippi.
On the other hand, Madison had its fair share of discrimination. In one Breeze article, students claim that African-Americans are discriminated against both academically and socially at the institution. While they raise academic discrimination above social, they also acknowledge the need for more entertainment geared towards African-American students (Breeze 55, no. 20). This is significant, because students want to find and create organizations that represent their interests and desires. It is not that African-American students were not welcomed in predominantly white student organizations, but that they were simply creating organizations that supported their interests and needs at JMU (Dean, 2013).
In addition, it is important to acknowledge some of the strategies employed by Madison College in their recruitment of African-Americans. They were definitely hit hard by the concept of reverse discrimination. Like many other institutions, they had to prove that the African-Americans they accepted went above and beyond expectations. Many of the more average African-Americans would not be displayed in publications, such as The Bluestone and The Breeze. In addition, there was no critical mass of African-Americans either in Harrisonburg or attending the institution; therefore, it was easier for them to comply with programs, such as Affirmative Action, which required the racial proportions of employees to match the surrounding area’s population. Accordingly, Madison College was only required to have 2% African-American employment.
Despite all this, James Madison University was ranked as one of the most popular universities for African Americans to attend, because of the efforts they made in order to help them adjust and find their own place on campus (Thomas & Carrier, 2013). Today, the children of African-American alumni from the 70s continue to attend James Madison University, implying that their parents did not have a bad experience at the university.
Carrier, Ronald E. Interview by Nancy Bondurant Jones. Harrisonburg, VA. April 22, 2002.
Carrier, Ronald E. Class Speaker. Harrisonburg, VA. March 13, 2013.
Dean, Arthur. Interview by author. Harrisonburg, VA. March 26, 2013.
Richardson, Tami. “Blacks at JMU Concerned with Discrimination.” Breeze 55, no. 20 (November 11, 1977): 20.
Smith, Steve. Interview by author. Harrisonburg, VA. April 2, 2013.
Thomas, Daphyne. Interview by author. Harrisonburg, VA. March 22, 2013.
Walker, Jackie. Class Speaker. Harrisonburg, VA. March 20,2013.