1945-1963: Attempts at Progress
Lincoln's Job Half-Done
This Flat Hat article, written by a student named Marilyn Kaemmerle, was highly controversial upon its publication. The first exhibit discusses the suspension of the Flat Hat as well as the pervasiveness of a separate-but-equal mentality. Separate but equal was a result of explicit segregation laws set in place after the Confederate’s loss in the Civil War. These laws, termed the Jim Crow Laws, created a space for systemic racism against people of color, while simultaneously reinforcing white supremacy. As a result, African Americans were not afforded the same liberties, rights, and privileges as their white counterparts. One example would be the designation of colleges as either white or black schools. The College of William and Mary admitted only white students until 1963, with exception of a few international students.
For reference, see the item on the Admissions Letter.
This article demonstrates the opinion of one student who speaks out against almost a century of tradition and custom. Further, this is an incredibly important because The College of William and Mary has a long history associated with the oppression and subjugation of African Americans, and that one student has take a stand in promoting equality of all races is, in its time, controversial.
The article states that although African-Americans have been “released from formal bondage” through explicit slavery, they are “not equalized.” Kaemmerle suggests that African Americans “should be recognized as equals in our minds and hearts” and she provides a short scientific argument to support the notion of equality and homogeneity between races. She says that “negroes should attend William and Mary,” which in 1945, was a highly controversial suggestion.
William and Mary at the time was primarily white, so publishing something that would suggest racial integration was problematic to a large, white conservative population. Kaemmerle also makes an incredibly critical, but radical statement that test scores are the result of differences in income, education, cultural advantages, and other opportunities. This statement is significant because it highlights that opportunity, as opposed to race determines one’s intelligence and consequential success in society. The surrounding white, conservative community in Williamsburg, as well as the larger American community, largely negated this assumption. As a result, Kaemmerle experienced backlash from the college administration and Williamsburg community, which led to her delayed graduation. Publishing such a bold statement shows sentiments of equality and justice for the African American community within the student body. This sort of sentiment became pervasive throughout William and Mary as we find in 1963, a poll conducted by the Flat Hat to show a majority student support for integration and equality.
800 Students Sign Poll
This short, front page article titled “800 Students Sign Poll” summarizes the liberal atmosphere of the College in 1963. An opinion poll was created by students Val Simms, Jerry Van Vocrhis and Bill Thatch, which called for the College’s administration to admit applicants based on intellect and “personal character”, rather than race or color. This article comes 18 years after Marilyn Kaemmerle’s “Lincoln’s Job Half-Done,” which argues for racial integration and equality. “Lincoln’s Job Half-Done” received such a tremendous backlash that the Flat Hat was shut down by the administration, and Kaemmerle was forced to take a semester off. Although eighteen years is an insignificant time lapse in history, it produced a change in opinion for the William and Mary community.
A follow-up article titled “ On Integration”, appears on the fourth page of the same Flat Hat issue. This follow-up article goes into detail about the issues of integration the poll examined. For example, the power of the student body to enact change was a central issue for students who felt like their views were ignored or neglected. Many students signed the poll in hopes that the administration would change their recruitment process to include people of color. Others refused to sign the poll because they felt it would not be productive. However, students were unafraid to make their pro-integrationist views heard, whether or not the administration gave these views attention.
These articles are remarkable for the willingness of the students to openly object to segregationist policies in admission at the College of William and Mary in 1963 which came just 18 years after the intense backlash to Kaemmerle’s article. The quick turn in campus opinion is emphasized with the conclusion of “On Integration” which attempted to preempt problems of integrating the College and suggest solutions. The legacy of William and Mary is far from perfect, but this moment is one to remember.