Browse Exhibits (3 total)
The 1960s were a time of great cultural, social and political unrest. Despite its conservative reputation, Washington and Lee University, a small, all-male liberal arts college in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, did not escape the decade's upheavals. From debates over desegregation and black power, to curricular changes, to coeducation, the sexual revolution, and the student movement to stop the War in Vietnam, W&L's faculty, staff and student body participated in and contributed to the 1960s.
Washington and Lee University is a conservative campus today and was comparatively conservative in 1970 as well according to several members of the university community at the time. However in May of 1970 the University was caught up in the national Student Strike. May of 1970 was an extraordinary time when students at Washington and Lee and at campuses across the country stopped attending class to protest. Hundreds of thousands of students marched on Washington DC. These radical and nationwide events were immediately precipitated by the Nixon administration's decision to invade Cambodia and the shooting of students at Kent State by members of the National Guard on May 4, 1970 resulting in the deaths of four students. However longer arching sources of discontent and habits of protest had created the atmosphere that allowed this spectacular show of national student discontent. Student protest movements on Civil Rights in the early 1960s, the University of California Free Speech Movement in the mid-1960s, and growing anti-Vietnam movement throughout the middle and late parts of the decade had prepared students with the tools, the will, and the precedent to express their unrest.
Private universities in the South desegregated because of money, and national prestige. Faculty anger concerning segregation and student support of integration brought attention to the issue, but this did not change the mind of the board. At this time the government is just starting to fund research at private universities. The military industrial complex is starting in the wake of WWII and the Manhattan Project. Northern philanthropic groups were less and less likely to fund institutions that supported segregation. The board of trustees at these institutions acted as anchors slowing down the process of integration, and in the process costing the school national prestige and federal funds. This exhibit will look at the two leading private universities in the South, and compare the ways in which Vanderbilt and Duke went about the process of integration. Vanderbilt was a leader in terms of desegregating private education in the South. Chancellor Harvie Branscomb recognized that he could use integration to increase funding at Vanderbilt, and to increase its national reputation. Duke was already well known nationally, and it did not need to attract the funds that Vanderbilt needed. Duke lost much national prominence during this era, and was no longer seen as the leading private university in the south. As one alumnus put it Duke wanted to be a leader nationally while it held up the values of a region. These were both private universities, which had graduate programs, located in segregated cities, and they had to deal with the same protests. This exhibit will look at how the presidents interacted with the boards of trustees during this era, why they integrated, the schools reaction to the non violence movement in their city, and the thoughts and feelings of the first black undergraduate students at these universities.