Integration at W&L

The Washington and Lee University Board of Trustees affirmed a nondiscriminatory admissions policy in 1964, and the first Black students enrolled two years later in 1966. This site aims to provide information about the events leading up to and after Washington and Lee’s desegregation and integration. It contains related materials from the Washington and Lee University Special Collections including correspondence with Trustees and Presidents, articles in University publications, and information on the experiences of Black students, faculty, and staff. The materials are presented as they originally appeared and may contain offensive language.  

Timeline

This timeline provides an overview of the events surrounding the desegregation and integration of Washington and Lee University from its first Black student, John Chavis, to the present. To learn more about an event, or to find related documents and articles from the archive, click on the event title. When the exact date of an event was unknown, the event is placed on the timeline at the first of the month or the first of the year. This timeline was created and written by Rose M. Hein ’22. 

Exhibits

The Black Experience at W&L

This exhibit was created by the students of ENGL 295: African-American Poetry in Spring 2018. It documents the experiences of Black students at W&L from integration to the present.

The Black General

The Black General is a digital exhibit featuring archival material and oral histories on the period of desegregation at W&L, the history of black student organizations, and other relevant material on the Black experience at W&L sourced from alumni, faculty, staff and Special Collections.

Related Resources

The material on this page grew out of a multi-institution project funded through the Associated Colleges of the South. Together with Centre College, Furman University, and Rollins College, W&L embarked on a multi-year project to survey, assess, curate, digitize, describe, and interpret archival materials on the history of desegregation and integration on our campuses. At W&L, this work was led by Sydney Bufkin (Mellon Digital Humanities Fellow) and Paula Kiser (Digital Scholarship Librarian). As part of this project, makayla lorick '19 captured oral histories from African-Americans at W&L which can be experienced at The Black General, along with research into the histories of Black student organizations at W&L.

For now, you can view the collections of our partner institutions at their own sites: Centre Digital Archive, Commemorating Desegreation at Furman and Pathways to Diversity at Rollins.  In the future, we hope to share a centralized repository of this material so that the stories can be viewed within the wider context of small liberal arts colleges in the South. We also recommend the Race & Racism project at the University of the Richmond and the Black Liberation Archive 1969 at Swarthmore College.

 

Get Involved

If you have an interest in archival research or the digital humanities, or want to learn more about W&L's history with desegregation and integration, it is my hope that the work of this website will be continued through the work of others.  

Some ideas for future work include:  

  • Interpretive exhibits covering events or topics such as the foundation of SABU or the scheduled football game with Washington and Jefferson College.  

  • Network analysis with Trustees’ and Presidents’ correspondence to discover the most prominent voices in the conversation surrounding integration.  

  • A physical map to display the reaches of integration-related correspondence. 

  • More information about W&L in recent years, including detailed information about SABU and other Black student unions. 

If you would like to hear more about future work ideas, or get involved, contact Professor Mackenzie Brooks (brooksm@wlu.edu). 

Documentation

Integration at W&L is a division of the W&L Special Collections and Archives Digital Exhibits website, created with Omeka S.  

Unless otherwise noted, all items come from the Washington and Lee University Special Collections, located in Leyburn Library. This material is made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright law. The user assumes full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used should be fully credited with the source. Permission for publication of this material, in part or in full, must be secured with the Head of Special Collections.  

Metadata for items in the site uses Dublin Core. Subjects are derived from Library of Congress Subject Headings, and names are from SNAC (Social Networks and Archival Context) Collaborative. When individuals’ names are not yet present in other archives, names include as much information about the individual’s name as possible.  

This site was founded by Rose M. Hein ’22 with the assistance of Professor Mackenzie Brooks. Special thanks to the Washington and Lee Special Collections Staff—Tom Camden, Seth Goodhart-McCormick, Byron Faidley, and Lisa McCown—for scanning and archival assistance, and to Paula Kiser for digitization and preservation.  

This website began as a Summer Research Scholars project in 2019, building off of the previous summer work of makayla lorick (https://blackgeneral.omeka.wlu.edu/). In 2019, Rose collected archival material and began the digitization process. During the summer of 2020, this website was founded to showcase and make accessible the archival objects found in 2019. This site is intended to be an ongoing project involving many students and other members of the Washington and Lee community.