Staff Editorial: Celebrating the 50th year of integration

Two years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and three years after a Guilford talent show depicted a comedian in blackface, James McCorkle ’66  became the first African American to enroll at Guilford College.

Searching through the rows of white faces in the 1963 Quaker, the Guilford yearbook, we read: Richard Lippincott, Arthur Long, John McCauley, James McCorkle … wait, James McCorkle.

The only brown face in the entire yearbook and nowhere does it say we did something revolutionary. This is not an accident. This man, James McCorkle is brave, he is an anomaly; he is the first black man enrolled at Guilford in an era where blacks and whites may not wash their hands together, where black men get lynched for whistling at white woman.

In ’67, the year before Martin Luther King was shot, Guilford students picketed the local, segregated Imperial Barber Shop. Two years later African American students demonstrated against the short hair requirement for athletes, stating that, “afro hairstyles were a critical part of black identity” (The Guilfordian, Oct. 10, 1969). As a result President Grimsley Hobbs, overturned the short-hair mandate.

The ’79 Quaker shows a photograph of a black man and a white woman embracing in the Serendipity spread the same year that five members of the Communist Worker’s Party were shot to death by Klansman and Nazis — who were tried and acquitted by all white juries. Integration is not a state of being but a process.

Now in 2012 there would be many brown faces in the Guilford yearbook, if we had one. Jada Drew ’07, the Africana Community Coordinator, and BUS (Black Unifying Society) honor those who have struggled for civil rights and help to keep our community aware of the continual struggle for equality.

“…(A) loving Father does not distinguish between his children and neither should the children distinguish between themselves” (Charles Baker, The Guilfordian, 1961).