Reparation and Reconciliation: The Rise and Fall of Integrated Higher Education

Reparation and Reconciliation: The Rise and Fall of Integrated Higher Education

Reparation and Reconciliation: The Rise and Fall of Integrated Higher Education

Reparation and Reconciliation: The Rise and Fall of Integrated Higher Education


Through a detailed analysis of archival and press data, Christi M. Smith demonstrates that pressures between organizations--including charities and foundations--and the emergent field of competitive higher education led to the differentiation and exclusion of African Americans, Appalachian whites, and white women from coeducational higher education and illuminates the actors and the strategies that led to the persistent salience of race over other social boundaries.

Reparation and Reconciliation is the first book to reveal the nineteenth-century struggle for racial integration on U.S. college campuses. As the Civil War ended, the need to heal the scars of slavery, expand the middle class, and reunite the nation engendered a dramatic interest in higher education by policy makers, voluntary associations, and African Americans more broadly. Formed in 1846 by Protestant abolitionists, the American Missionary Association united a network of colleges open to all, designed especially to educate African American and white students together, both male and female. The AMA and its affiliates envisioned integrated campuses as a training ground to produce a new leadership class for a racially integrated democracy. Case studies at three colleges--Berea College, Oberlin College, and Howard University--reveal the strategies administrators used and the challenges they faced as higher education quickly developed as a competitive social field.


In our work, ideas are so soon transmitted into deeds and facts
that it really becomes a very serious matter what we think.

—REVEREND SAMUEL HUNT, American Missionary
Association, May 17, 1861

The history of this age will read, no doubt, like a romance to
future generations, and they will wonder how such things could
be. Noble schemes and philanthropy ideas have been conceived,
perfected, and hurried to glorious end…. This is, beyond a
doubt, set forth in the constantly increasing desire among all
nations to abhor and discontinue making capital of human
flesh, and in the establishment of great educational centers

—G. R. H., LINCOLN UNIVERSITY, letter to the editor
of the Christian Recorder, November 22, 1872

Twenty-three years after the Civil War ended, C. Clifton Penick attended a college commencement ceremony. “I have been there, and I have seen it; if I had not, I would not believe it. But there is the actual thing—not an experiment but a reality!” Penick did not know any particular graduate; nor was Berea College his alma mater. He was one of 6,000 visitors crowding the small college campus in rural Kentucky. The visitors arrived from New Orleans and New York, Ohio, and Massachusetts. The Lexington and Nashville Railroad prepared for the unusual traffic by adding extra rail services for days in advance. All were there to witness the graduation of the Berea College Class of 1888. What made this event remarkable was that the graduating class was comprised of nearly equal numbers of black and white students. Berea’s integration was all the more impressive for its longevity. This noteworthy annual event had drawn crowds by the thousand for almost two decades. The men and women graduating that day belonged to what Penick described as “a living, thriving institution fulfilling all the conditions of the most radical lover of coeducation.”

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