Desegregation of Del Mar College
Backstory and Context
Desegregation was a point of contention in the United States in the late forties to early fifties, with many advocates
supporting the immediate integration of schools and many vocal opponents
considering mass integration to be a disaster. Georgia's governor Talmadge went so far as to claim that the
compulsory mixing could result in "more confusion, disorder, riots, and
bloodshed from anything since the War between the States." While
desegregation was never completely smooth in any state, in part due to the violent and racist nature of anti-segregationists, the negative effects in the Corpus Christi area turned out to be far less drastic than had been once claimed. Del Mar College
was an early adopter of desegregation, opting to make its campus equally
accessible to African-Americans since 1952, a year and four months before the
Supreme Court mandate of Brown v. Board of Education.
The desegregation of Del-Mar began with the first black students attempting to register: Clifford Vernell Smoots, Jo Ann Lawson, and Willie Andrew Miller. The local black college, Coles Junior College, did not provide them with the same level of education that whites would receive at Del Mar, and did not have the resources available to teach the same courses, even if they would have been provided. Lawson wanted to attend music classes, not offered at Coles, and Smoots wanted to learn mechanical drawing—which involved more supplies than Coles could afford, in direct contrast to Del Mar College, which was putting in new buildings and offering more classes to provide for the “true” community college experience and to entice more members of the community to join.
Henry Boyd Hall, a local civil rights activist, and many other civil rights leaders, including Walter White of the NAACP, heard of the situation with the college and the black applicants. They argued that the facilities were separate but not equal, as the facilities at Coles were “by no stretch of the imagination equal to Del Mar College” and threatened to march on the campus if the students were not allowed to attend the college. Perhaps a result of not wanting negative publicity, the Board of Regents met and unanimously voted to desegregate the school as of the following semester, in September 1952.
As a community, black and white women had already formed the local YWCA together, and antiquated Jim Crow laws were hardly in effect in the Corpus Christi area. This solidarity between races spread to husbands of these women and helped to make the desegregation of Del Mar College a relatively peaceful endeavor, without major riots or interruptions to the school or classes. Students were generally supportive of the new black students in their integrated school, even as far as to come up with safer travel routes for potential school trips with black students that would not put them in the way of the harmful, still-legal, Jim Crow laws and ideologies elsewhere in Texas and the US South. Latino and white students welcomed their new classmates with a protective support, and the community’s acceptance of the ruling proved to be more open and kind than even the most optimistic thoughts from the Board of Regents and President E. L. Harvin.
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