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Berea College

Berea College: An Illustrated History

Shannon H. Wilson
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Berea College
    Book Description:

    The motto of Berea College is "God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth," a phrase underlying Berea's 150-year commitment to egalitarian education. The first interracial and coeducational undergraduate institution in the South, Berea College is well known for its mission to provide students the opportunity to work in exchange for a tuition-free quality education. The founders believed that participation in manual labor blurred distinctions of class; combined with study and leisure, it helped develop independent, industrious, and innovative graduates committed to serving their communities. These values still hold today as Berea continues its legendary commitment to equality, diversity, and cultural preservation and, at the same time, expands its mission to include twenty-first-century concerns, such as ecological sustainability. In Berea College: An Illustrated History, Shannon H. Wilson unfolds the saga of one of Kentucky's most distinguished institutions of higher education, centering his narrative on the eight presidents who have served Berea. The college's founder, John G. Fee, was a staunch abolitionist and believer in Christian egalitarianism who sought to build a college that "would be to Kentucky what Oberlin was to Ohio, antislavery, anti-caste, anti-rum, anti-sin." Indeed, the connection to Oberlin is evident in the college's abolitionist roots and commitment to training African American teachers, preachers, and industrial leaders. Black and white students lived, worked, and studied together in interracial dorms and classrooms; the extent of Berea's reformist commitment is most evident in an 1872 policy allowing interracial dating and intermarriage among its student body. Although the ratio of black to white students was nearly equal in the college's first twenty years, this early commitment to the education of African Americans was shattered in 1904, when the Day Law prohibited the races from attending school together. Berea fought the law until it lost in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1908 but later returned to its commitment to interracial education in 1950, when it became the first undergraduate college in Kentucky to admit African Americans. Berea's third president, William Goodell Frost, shifted attention toward "Appalachian America" during the interim, and this mission to reach out to Appalachians continues today. Wilson also chronicles the creation of Berea's many unique programs designed to serve men and women in Kentucky and beyond. A university extension program carried Berea's educational opportunities into mountain communities. Later, the New Opportunity School for Women was set up to help adult women return to the job market by offering them career workshops, job experience on campus, and educational and cultural enrichment opportunities. More recently, the college developed the Black Mountain Youth Leadership Program, designed to reduce the isolation of African Americans in Appalachia and encourage cultural literacy, academic achievement, and community service. Berea College explores the culture and history of one of America's most unique institutions of higher learning. Complemented by more than 180 historic photographs, Wilson's narrative documents Berea's majestic and inspiring story.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7184-5
    Subjects: Education, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    There are many who believe that Berea College is one of America’s most distinctive colleges because of its remarkable history and ideals. Since 1855 many supporters and members of the Berea College community have experienced the heroic and legendary claims made for and by the institution. This history of Berea College is an attempt to provide readers with a broad examination of the founding ideas that have continued to inform the development of the institution. Consequently, this book is not intended as a “comprehensive” or “definitive” study; it is instead an exploration of the personalities, events, and other elements that...

  5. ONE The Witness to Impartial Love John G. Fee and the Founding of Berea College
    (pp. 9-31)

    America in 1855 was a nation awash in excitement. Reformers denounced the evils of liquor and secret societies. Women’s rights advocates such as Lucy Stone, Abbie Kelly Foster, and Antoinette Brown Blackwell gained a national hearing. For many reformers, however, slavery was the dominant issue. Amid border skirmishes between proslavery and “Free Soil” militias, the abolitionist John Brown joined his sons and became the leader of an abolitionist group in “Bleeding Kansas.” Addressing an antislavery society gathering in New York City, Ralph Waldo Emerson estimated that $200 million was needed to purchase the freedom of every slave in the South....

  6. TWO Forecasting the Millennium Edward Henry Fairchild, 1869–1889
    (pp. 33-55)

    The administration of Berea’s first president, Edward Henry Fairchild, gave institutional form to Fee’s dream of an interracial, coeducational school. He proclaimed that Berea would welcome all persons, regardless of race, who sought the advantages of education. Fairchild stoutly asserted that educating women and men together enhanced learning and culture. Established in the fall of 1869, Fairchild’s administration inaugurated the development of a curriculum, the beginnings of significant fund-raising and endowment, the shaping of an interracial community, and the first substantial buildings that were symbolic of the college’s stability and commitment. The first collegiate class, consisting of four men and...

  7. THREE Working for God and Humanity William B. Stewart, 1890–1892
    (pp. 57-73)

    Berea college faced several challenges with the arrival of William Boyd Stewart as its second president. There were curricular concerns about just how the school would best serve its students. Another issue was the continuation of Berea’s interracial mission. Public schools in Kentucky were segregated by law, but private schools such as Berea had been left alone. A separate-coach bill that prevented blacks and whites from riding on trains together was passed in the state in 1892, but the more restrictive poll tax and registration laws that characterized the Deep South were not yet present in Kentucky. Berea’s financial doldrums...

  8. FOUR The Telescope and the Spade William Goodell Frost, 1892–1920
    (pp. 75-101)

    A new world opened for Berea College with the second, unanimous election of William Goodell Frost to the presidency. Frost’s opportunity came out of the controversies that had shredded William B. Stewart’s unhappy administration, yet many believed that brighter prospects were in store for the college under Frost’s leadership. Fully committed to Berea’s interracial mission, Frost found that financial support for interracial education was in decline. Still, he affirmed that serving the “cause of Christ” in this uncommon way was the supreme aim of the school. Berea College, Frost forcefully argued, was a demonstration that what was right was also...

  9. FIVE Bristling with History William J. Hutchins, 1920–1938
    (pp. 103-127)

    When William J. Hutchins became Berea’s fourth president in July 1920, he stepped into a history that reflected significant changes in the understanding of Berea’s story. Under the leadership of William G. Frost, Berea had focused on the “uplift” of southern mountain people, and in 1911 the trustees had voted to amend the college’s constitution and designate Appalachia as Berea’s sole field of service. The institutional story presented at Hutchins’s inaugural showed a college whose founding was at once radical, altruistic, and dedicated to serving poor students, white and black, through education. Frost had added to this mission a focus...

  10. SIX More Than an Ordinary College Francis S. Hutchins, 1939–1967
    (pp. 129-159)

    Berea college in 1939 emerged from the Great Depression consisting of two schools. The first was the Foundation School, which served students in junior high and the first two years of high school. The second was the college, divided into Lower Division (eleventh and twelfth grades in high school, freshman and sophomore years of college) and Upper Division (the last two years of college). William J. Hutchins’s long-studied reorganization of Berea had finally been implemented in 1938. Many faculty members were doubtful about the workability of this arrangement, and reluctant approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools had...

  11. SEVEN A College of History and Destiny Willis D. Weatherford Jr., 1967–1984
    (pp. 161-177)

    At the end of Francis Hutchins’s administration in 1967, Berea College had endured World War II, pushed through curricular and administrative reorganizations, and reclaimed the historic ideal of integrated education. Conscious of his father’s discomforting experience with a former president lurking in the background, Francis Hutchins left Berea only a month after his successor took office. The new president was Willis D. Weatherford Jr., the son of the powerful and distinguished college trustee W. D. Weatherford Sr. The new president saw Berea’s legacy as one of social concern and racial equality, inaugurated by Fee and supported by J. A. R....

  12. EIGHT New Magic in a Dusty World John B. Stephenson, 1984–1994
    (pp. 179-199)

    Berea college in 1984 now defined its mission in terms of the Great Commitments. The Christian motivations of service, interracial education, liberal learning, and service to Appalachia were salient features of Willis Weatherford’s administration. This standardization of the college’s story was not a rigid or legalistic code of conduct; rather, it served to guide the development of current and future programs and services. The Great Commitments defined Berea’s tradition and independence against efforts to become like other colleges and universities. During Weatherford’s time, the college’s commitments were consciously integrated into the curriculum, in the labor program, and in Berea’s service,...

  13. NINE Continuing to Be and to Become Larry D. Shinn, 1994–
    (pp. 201-220)

    Berea college in the 1980s had achieved national recognition as one of the finest colleges in the South. Under the leadership of John B. Stephenson, the college developed innovative programs for serving Appalachia and advanced a new curriculum. Opportunities for international education were expanded, and the Great Commitments reaffirmed. This reaffirmation gave tangible recognition to Berea’s history of coeducation, with promising curricular and administrative results. The work of the Long Range Planning Committee also introduced important initiatives into ongoing campus life and governance. Stephenson’s protracted illness at the end of his tenure in the early 1990s contributed to a loss...

  14. Appendix One: The Great Commitments of Berea College
    (pp. 221-221)
  15. Appendix Two: Constitution, Charter, and Bylaws of Berea College
    (pp. 222-224)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 225-236)
  17. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 237-240)
  18. Index
    (pp. 241-246)