Guest Blogger: Jalin Jackson, “I Don’t See Greek: Diagnosing Blindness and Redefining Inclusivity at Davidson College” Part 2

This is part two of a two-part post.

           Interestingly, this back-and-forth surrounding the black fraternity debate in 1989 was covered by a writer for the Charlotte Observer, Ricki Morrell. In her coverage, she mentions opposition within Davidson’s fraternities and dormitories against the idea of a black fraternity on campus.[7] In a short column commenting on Morrell’s piece, President of Patterson Court Council Bennett Cardwell sought to provide a clearer picture of where the Davidson student body generally was in terms of the debate. In a piece titled “Story Is One-Sided,” Cardwell identified Tom Moore as “a random senior” dissenter whose opinions did not “in any way represent those of the student body in general.”[8] Cardwell assured that the opposition to diversifying Patterson Court was much smaller than Morrell led everyone to believe; he even stated that many white students were in favor of the idea of a black fraternity.[9] Second, Cardwell rejected the notion that there were “white fraternities” at Davidson, assuring his audience that there were black members in the fraternities on campus.[10] At the time, the members in Davidson’s six fraternities comprised about sixty percent of the student body. If Cardwell was the voice of reason in this debate, then given the fact that the interest in diversifying Patterson Court persisted as time went on, why did it take until 2003 to bring any black fraternity to Davidson College?[11] Aside from later concerns of sustainability from Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc., the college still holds a large portion of that responsibility.[12] Some within the Davidson College community continued and continue to faithfully adhere to the inclusivity argument against diversification, reinforcing Davidson’s culture of color-blindness. Historically, when that argument did not work, some attempted to augment it by expressing concerns of the further fragmentation of the Davidson College community. These arguments lend themselves to the notion of minimal representation. If color-blindness has been Davidson’s modus operandi, the goal of minimal representation is Davidson’s subconscious impetus.

color photogrpah of 15 women of the AKA sorority in 2008

Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sigma Psi Chapter 2008


Minimal representation in this context refers to Davidson College’s tendency to strive for the bare minimum in terms of social representation so as to diversify and simultaneously be able to maintain color-blind tendencies as the institution evolves. That way, the college can comfortably fight for change and minimize social backlash on campus. The push for minimal representation is especially evident given Davidson’s decision to establish the BSC so early in the institution’s history of diversification, yet struggle with the diversification of Patterson Court for such a long time. The reluctance to establish any sorority on campus primarily due to the presence of eating houses also illuminates the desire for minimal representation. In a letter dated December 1,1997 and addressed to the President of Davidson College at the time, Robert F. Vagt, several members of the Executive Committee expressed why the college should not allow any sororities on campus. The committee stated their arguments clearly: sororities are organized around social exclusivity, eating houses are an inclusive system, and academic life would be adversely affected.[13] At this time, all of Davidson’s Patterson Court institutions were predominantly white and no sororities existed. The Executive Committee’s letter exposes the same trope evident in the 1989 black fraternity debate: the inclusivity argument, and other arguments to fall back on should the former fall through. Davidson reveals itself to be suspicious of diverse social forms and exposes its affinity for the status quo.

Insignia for sorority AKA with motto

Alpha Kappa Alpha Insignia


A status quo is not an inherently bad thing. However, when we consider Davidson College’s constant need and desire for structural improvement, using color-blind materials is not the way to go. In fact, it is a contradiction. Color-blindness has to be removed from Davidson’s toolbox if we are to improve this institution. If Davidson directly or indirectly utilizes blindness as a tool for its enhancement, nothing is actually ameliorated, hence the status quo. Some at Davidson College still pride themselves on their color-blind ideologies, and other types of blindness as well. Color-blind arguments coupled with minimal representation kept black fraternities off of Davidson’s campus until the early to mid 2000’s. The 1989 black fraternity debate and later opposition against sororities are prime examples of the resilience color-blind ideologies have had within the Davidson College community. That is to say that Davidson College, as the institution exists now, has been compromised, just like the United States. Nevertheless, Davidson’s flaws are to be neither accepted nor celebrated unless the status quo is something we enjoy seeing.


Bibliography, Part Two

[7] Ricki Morrell. “Black Davidson Students Push For Black Fraternity,” The Charlotte Observer, Article, November 21, 1989.

[8] Bennett S. Cardwell, “The Story Is One-Sided,” 1989.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ricki Morrell. “Black Davidson Students Push For Black Fraternity,” November 21, 1989.

[12] Lincoln Davidson, “Alpha Phi Alpha marks 10 years at Davidson College,” November 3, 2013.

[13] Executive Committee, “Sororities at Davidson College,” Letter to College President, December 1, 1997.


Guest Blogger: Jalin Jackson, “I Don’t See Greek: Diagnosing Blindness and Redefining Inclusivity at Davidson College”

This is part one of a two-part post; the second post will be on Wednesday of this week.

I am a Class of 2019 Africana Studies and Latin American Studies double major at Davidson College from Camden, New Jersey. My interests range from the social and cultural intersections of the African diaspora and Latin America to the political and linguistic disparities between the two.

In the United States, many criticize the system for its failure to provide change inclusive enough to satisfy diverse populations. This system, whose evolutionary apparatus has been a combination of racism and white supremacy, cannot improve as long as its inconsistencies remain unchanged or are changed without its history in mind. In my opinion, Davidson College has done a decent job at separating itself as an institution from the greater system within which it exists. While the college has undone most discriminatory practices, blindness has been a leading instrument in the college’s push for improvement throughout its recent history. A system built on blindness – whether color-blindness, class-blindness, or any other form – is as flawed a system as one built on racism. This is not because one or the other is more prone to oppression, but instead because blindness does not work toward its own eventual goal of undoing structural oppression and underrepresentation. Davidson’s present reality of incomplete social inclusivity and color-blind ideologies can be attributed to its history of color-blindness as an apparatus of change in Davidson’s social realm. Contradictions of inclusivity within Patterson Court organizations, arguments against the diversification of Greek life, and minimal representation on campus have prolonged Davidson’s improvement historically.

Davidson College’s preference for color-blindness does not mean it is incapable of making anti-racist decisions. In terms of black student admission, Davidson had its first African American alumnus in 1968 with Wayne Crumwell, officially admitting him in 1964. This goes against the common narratives of near universal southern pushback against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that called for scholastic integration.

Black and white photograph of Wayne Crumwell, portrait style, 1968

Wayne Crumwell, Class of 1968


Just five years earlier, the Davidson College Board of Trustees insisted that 1959 was not a time when the “admission of Negroes” was in the “best interest of the College, of the Church, of the Students, or of any Negroes.”[1] In that same vein, in a pre-1964 majority report by a few higher-ups at Davidson College, there were some interesting arguments against the admission of African Americans to Davidson College. These ranged from how the college would have to “lower the quality of its education” to how the admission of blacks would encourage miscegenation, which was outlawed at the time.[2] Yet, as soon as the civil rights law compelled Davidson to comply with integration, the college as an institution did so relatively quickly. In addition to that, by 1970 the Black Student Coalition was founded on campus.[3] Davidson’s speed in diversifying its student body and providing representation for its minority student demographic are evidence of the college’s ability to push toward anti-racism and cultural representation despite strong opposition within the community. However, following the increasing level of diversity on campus in terms of gender and race, Davidson began to favor a color-blind ideology that guided decisions that would soon alter the appearance and atmosphere of the space.

By 1989, Davidson College had six white fraternities in Patterson Court. In that same year, a student debate regarding whether to introduce a black fraternity to Patterson Court surfaced. On October 25, 1989, a white Davidson College senior named Tom Moore wrote a piece responding negatively to one written by a Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., interest group a few weeks earlier. In his piece, Moore argued that a black fraternity “would segregate the campus” and that assimilation is the “best way to improve lines of communication”; he even contends that a black fraternity sounds like “the rationale for the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine” and that minorities on campus should just assimilate because Davidson’s predominately white social circles reflect the social reality of America.[4] Although radical, Moore’s comments illuminate the basis of the inclusivity argument that: existing social organizations at Davidson are already inclusive and the exclusivity of a different organization would fragment the campus. This inclusivity argument, as one will see, goes on to repeat itself throughout Davidson’s evolution. In response to Moore’s statements, black junior Darry Strickland published in the November 1, 1989 edition of the Davidsonian what would be the opposite pole of the debate. Strickland called out Moore on his “ethnocentric attitude” and communicated how black males at the college were forced to assimilate into white fraternities if they wished to participate in Greek life on campus at all.[5] Even though white fraternities at Davidson College were not allowed to racially discriminate explicitly at the time, there is a reason that black male students interested in Greek life were not joining these fraternities at the college en masse. The organizations may have been inclusive on paper, but not diverse enough. They maintained their inclusivity, neglecting why it failed in the diversification of white organizations. Although this contradiction of inclusivity was not necessarily the fault of the existing organizations on campus, Moore failed to acknowledge what black students wanted.

black and white photograph Melissa Givens, portrait style, 1989

Melissa Givens, Class of 1989


Black senior Melissa Givens makes this clear in the November 1, 1989 edition of the Davidsonian as well, providing more insight into how blacks fared in the Davidson social scene. In her commentary, she calls on Moore and the Davidson College community repeatedly to “accept and celebrate the differences” as opposed to recognizing them without their celebration, as the college had been doing.[6] In other words, some within the Davidson College had been viewing differences as divisive, including Moore. I agree with Givens that assimilation silences those voices that are not a part of the majority. Her argument combats color-blindness directly and is one of the earlier moments of analysis identical to mine.


Bibliography, Part One

[1] Davidson College Board of Trustees. Meeting Summary, 1959.

[2] Davidson College Admissions Committee, “The Majority Report of the Admission of Negroes to Davidson College.”

[3] “Black Student Coalition House Showcases New Student-Painted Mural,” Davidson College News, September 11, 2013.

[4] Tom Moore. “Here’s how a black fraternity could be a bad idea,” Davidsonian Column, October 25, 1989.

[5] Darry Strickland. “A black fraternity is not an insidious plot,” Davidsonian Column, November 1, 1989.

[6] Melissa Givens. “A frat is not separate but equal—just different,” Davidsonian Column, November 1, 1989

Earth Day – Davidson Style

A recent donation from alumnus and environmental ethics leader Holmes Rolton III (class of 1953) raised the question of Davidson’s engagement with environmental issues including Earth Day.

Some of the dvds in a recent donation documenting Holmes Rolston III's work in environmental ethics.

Some of the dvds in a recent donation documenting Holmes Rolston III’s work in environmental ethics.

The annual celebrations of Earth Day began in 1970 and a few Davidson students made sure the college joined in that first year.

Headline and photo from 24 April 1970 Davidsonian, "Earth Day Workers Hold Car Boycott, Litter Pickup"

Headline and photo from 24 April 1970 Davidsonian

The students paired with the Union cafeteria to create a display of paper cups and litter, they also helped with trash clean up in town and passed out flyers encouraging people to drive their cars less. Their efforts met with some resistance. One faculty member declined to purchase a 40 cent  bumper sticker  (which said “Did you thank a green plant today?”) noting that he’d rather support the anti-war cause. Another questioned the rationale of putting anti-pollution stickers on polluting cars.  Undaunted, the students planned an environmental awareness teach-in with faculty and Congressman Nick Galifinakas.

The initial enthusiasm appears to have faded and in the next decade, Spring Frolics, Convocations, International Festivals, Easter breaks, and Alumni Weekends pushed Earth Day off campus calendars. Concerns over environmental issues grew again in the late 1980s, supported by Ruth Pittard in her role as program coordinator for the college union.  While not held on the official date, a 4-day Environmental Awareness Weekend was held April 5-8, 1989 with films, speakers and a repetition of the inaugural Earth Day’s display of campus trash.

Cover for Environmental Weekend program with an illustration of a person with their head as the earth

Cover for Environmental Weekend program

With the formation of the Environmental Action Coalition (EAC) as a student organization, Earth Day returned to Davidson. Instead of losing out to competing events, the Earth Day organizers often joined forces with other groups to combine their events with Frolics and Community Service’s Into the Streets programming

1990 Earth Day trash display, students standing next to large plastic bags filled with trash, one of them holding a sign

1990 Earth Day trash display

27 April 1992 Davidsonian account of Earth Day, "Davidson Celebrates Earth Week"

27 April 1992 Davidsonian account of Earth Day.

1993 Earth Day joins with Spring Fling events, article in the Davidsonian with the heading, "Friday's "Day at the Lake" Receives Praise as Success"

1993 Earth Day joins with Spring Fling events

In 1995, Earth Day becomes a part of community service via Into the Streets, This document shows the events occuring each day for, "Into The Streets Week April 24-28"

In 1995, Earth Day becomes a part of community service via Into the Streets.

In the late nineties, Earth Day went solo but with a twist – other campus organizations began to participate.  The 1999 celebration had student organizations and town businesses setting up booths.  One unnamed group returned to the theme of discouraging car use asking people to stop driving for one week. Warner Hall helped people sign up to avoid junk mail. It also expanded into weeks and even Earth Month in 2005.

Article on earth day with the heading, "Earth Day 1999 celebrated at Davidson"

In 2002, the Physical Plant workers weighed in with an information ad in the Davidsonian.

Physical Plant recycling numbers. This specific receipt says 32.17 tons of materials including: corrugated cardboard, paper, glass, plastic, and aluminum

Physical Plant sharing recycling numbers.

In the same issue of the Davidson, an editorial “Earth Day + Fun = Kegs” raised the question of whether having kegs would be a more environmentally friendly approach to reduce Patterson Court trash.

In 2005,  Earth Day plus fun meant the first Green Ball hosted jointly by the EAC and the Davidson Lands Conservancy.

Beginning of 27 April 2005 article on the Green Ball, "EAC holds Green Ball"

Beginning of 27 April 2005 article on the Green Ball

The inaugural Green Ball, featuring contra dancing and a silent auction, raised over $5000.   Still a popular event, the 2016 ball raised

The college proclaimed 2009 the Year of Sustainability, with a special Green Week happening in February rather than April. In 2012, Earth Day became part of Greenstock with information booths and student performers taking over the Union atrium.  In 2017,  EarthDay will spread beyond the campus as alumni chapters across the country join volunteer days for beach cleanups, recycling electronics, prepping community gardens and more.


First Annual North Carolina Debate Championships: a Window into the History of Debate at Davidson

45 years ago this week, March 24-25, 1972, the First Annual North Carolina Debate Championships were held at Wake Forest University. As A. Tennyson Williams, Jr., then Director of Debate at WFU, explained in a letter sent to debate team coaches and instructors around the state:

“Every debate school in North Carolina is invited to enter 2-man switch-side teams in varsity and/or novice (first year debaters) competition. There will be six rounds of eliminations beginning at the semi-final level (if there are enough teams to merit semi’s) in both divisions. Each school may enter 1 or 2 teams in each division. Please try to provide one qualified judge per 2 teams… I hope you will be able to enter some teams. North Carolina Championships could be an effective tool for building support for debate in the state and within your school.”

Davidson College has a rich tradition of debate, or as it was sometimes known, forensics. Eumenean and Philanthropic Literary Societies, founded in 1837, held both internal debates based on members’ research and formal debates with each other. Although the exact formation date of the official Debate Club on campus is unknown, Davidson students began competing in intercollegiate debate competitions in the 1890s and helped found the Intercollegiate State Oratorical Association in 1890.

A photograph of some debaters on the balcony of Philanthropic Hall circa 1915, from Roy Perry's scrapbook.

A photograph of some debaters on the balcony of Philanthropic Hall circa 1915, from Roy Perry’s scrapbook.

The Debate Club was most active between 1909 and the beginning of World War II, before fading out as student interest waned for the next few decades. The Davidsonian reported on a string of debate wins in April 1924, pointing out that between 1909 and 1924, the college debate teams had entered thirty matches and won twenty of them. The headline of the April 17, 1924 edition of the paper read “Davidson Debaters Down Emory Stars at Queens,” and the lead story crowed about the college’s success:

The rebuttal showed Davidson’s superior strength… It was here that the debate was cinched and even the consensus of opinion of the audience was that Davidson had added another victory to her string of intercollegiate debating wins.
Earlier that month, The Davidsonian reported that Davidson and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill “met in what is believed to be the first inter-collegiate debate conducted in a foreign language in North Carolina. The entire debate was in Spanish.” Davidson debaters lost that one, but the volume of newspaper coverage demonstrates student body interest in the Debate Club.
The 1917-1918 debate teams, standing on the steps of Old Chambers. These student teams won debates with Lafayette College and Roanoke College.

The 1917-1918 debate teams, standing on the steps of Old Chambers. These student teams won debates with Lafayette College and Roanoke College.

However, despite all of the early interest in debate, much of this activity centered around extracurricular clubs and societies and was not necessarily supported by classroom work. The study of rhetoric had been offered from the beginning days of the college, although specific speech and debate courses did not get offered until 1912, when Archibald Currie, who also taught Latin, Greek, mathematics, political science, economics, and education, led the first course in public speaking. After 1920, Dr. Currie dropped his broad Renaissance man duties and retained only his appointments in political science and economics, and the public speaking course was dropped until the 1950s and then offered sporadically until the hiring of Jean Springer Cornell in 1971.

Jean Cornell with members of the debate team in 1976. From left to right: Nancy Northcott (Class of 1977), Eric Daub (Class of 1979), Maria Patterson (Class of 1979), Jimmy Prappas (Class of 1980), and Ellen Ogilvie (Class of 1978).

Jean Cornell with members of the debate team in 1976. From left to right: Nancy Northcott (Class of 1977), Eric Daub (Class of 1979), Maria Patterson (Class of 1979), Jimmy Prappas (Class of 1980), and Ellen Ogilvie (Class of 1978).

Jean Cornell taught speech and debate at Davidson from 1971 until 1987, and directed the department of forensics that would develop into part of today’s Communication Studies interdisciplinary minor. Cornell earned a BA from Ohio Wesleyan University, a MS in journalism from Northwestern University, and a MA in speech from University of Arizona, and taught speech and debate at the University of Arizona at Tucson and Scripps College before coming to Davidson. Cornell served in a leadership role in Delta Sigma Rho – Tau Kappa Alpha (the honorary forensics organization), coordinated Mecklenburg and the surrounding counties’ Bicentennial Youth Debaters in 1976, and served as the editor for the Journal of the North Carolina Speech Communication Association.

Cornell would be prove to be an extremely effective debate team coach, and it was she who received the letter in early 1972, asking for Davidson to join the First Annual North Carolina Debate Championships. The Davidson and Wake Forest teams won nearly all of the honors at these championships, with Davidson’s novice team of Les Phillips and Paul Mitchell (both Class of 1975) taking second place, and the varsity pairing of John Douglas (Class of 1974) and Rick Damewood (Class of 1975) tying for third with a team from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Phillips won first place honors individually in the novice division, and Douglas placed third individually for the varsity division. Both divisions debated the national intercollegiate topic of 1972: “Resolved: That greater controls should be imposed on the gathering and utilization of information on U.S. citizens by government agencies.”

Score sheets from the First Annual North Carolina Debate Championship in March 1972.

Score sheets from the First Annual North Carolina Debate Championship in March 1972.

In late fall 1972, Cornell sent a memo to John M. Bevan, then Dean of Academic Affairs, detailing the debate program and its need for greater funds:

“Needless to say, the weak need not and do not apply. We have had the number one students in the freshman, sophomore, and junior classes as debaters… Due to our limited budget, several of the Extended Studies students have not been able to debate in these tournaments, and we have had to decline invitations to such prestigious schools as Princeton and Dartmouth… In two years (spring, 1974) we should have the manpower and proficiency to have our own tournament for neighboring high school students. Who knows what else we might do? Maybe even become a real power in college debate.”

Four members of the debate team stand behind trophies they won in 1975. From left to right: Gordon Widenhouse (Class of 1976), Paul Mitchell (Class of 1975), Mark Gergen (Class of 1978), and Randy Sherrill (Class of 1978).

Four members of the debate team stand behind trophies they won in 1975. From left to right: Gordon Widenhouse (Class of 1976), Paul Mitchell (Class of 1975), Mark Gergen (Class of 1978), and Randy Sherrill (Class of 1978).

Cornell built a successful debating program, and during the 1970s, Davidson was ranked consistently in the top 20 teams in the “small school” category nationally, and occasionally cracked the top 10. During the 1970s, Davidson debaters won their match-ups roughly 55-60% of the time, and Cornell grew the program through special debate workshops prior to the academic year, as well as through course credits. As part of her work coaching the Davidson debate team, she helped plan the North Carolina Debate Championships in 1978 when they were held on our campus.

Members of the 1976 debate team pose together for the picture. Back row, left to right: Steve Smith, Mark Gergen, Coach Jean Cornell, Robert Enright, and Mike Daisley; middle row: Unknown, Gordon Widenhouse, unknown, unknown; front row: Randy Sherrill, Ellen Ogilvie, Nancy Northcott, and Maria Patterson.

Members of the 1976 debate team pose together for the picture. Back row, left to right: Steve Smith, Mark Gergen, Coach Jean Cornell, Robert Enright, and Mike Daisley; middle row: Unknown, Gordon Widenhouse, unknown, unknown; front row: Randy Sherrill, Ellen Ogilvie, Nancy Northcott, and Maria Patterson.

Jean Cornell retired from Davidson in 1987, moved to Arizona, and passed away in November 2015. Today, the Mock Trial Association carries on the tradition of hosting debate competitions, and the Communication Studies department has expanded its range of academic offerings beyond speech and debate to focus on interpersonal communication, public communication, and mass communication, but still hosts the Speaking Center.


There’s an irony in the heading Extracurricular.  The Davidson Encyclopedia has 4 new entries on student extracurricular activities –in that they were written as curricular requirement. Students in a first year writing class on Leisure and Play spent weeks last fall learning about Davidson history through the lens of out of class experiences.

They worked in teams around 4 topics: honorary fraternities, independent student organizations,  oversight or coordinating boards, and political engagement.  Each group focused on a subset of organizations developing brief histories and sharpened their archival skills finding photographs and scanning Davidsonians.

The activity planning boards group wrote about the Interfraternity Council (once known as the Pan-Hellenic Council and now part of Patterson Court Council), the Publications (now Media Board) and the Union Board (still functioning as the Union Board).  They discovered stories of streaking and frolics, self-selection controversies and literary magazines.

A flyer for Spring Frolics 1992 with flowcharts of events happending

Frolicing with flowcharts in 1992

Research around honorary fraternities focused on the sciences, economics and music with Sigma Pi Sigma, Gamma Sigma Epsilon and Omicron Delta Epsilon and Phi Mu Alpha. Unexpected stories uncovered for this group included Davidson’s role in publishing a chemistry journal (serious work but with a few chemical jokes added in),  our first female professor in economics,  outdoors experiments on Chambers lawn, and the tradition of interfraternity sings.

Omicron Delta Epsilon mebmers in 1966

ODE in 1966

Changes in student social life and service activities in the 21st century made some of the experiences of around independent student groups intriguing for our student researchers. Anyone remember Lingle Manor, Alpha Phi Omega or any of the co-ed eating houses:

Lingle Manor the building, home once to Lingle Manor, the student organization.

Lingle Manor the building, home once to Lingle Manor, the student organization.

Today’s students found more in common with the political and social groups. Although only one group, the College Republicans, still exists, the concerns of the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) and Just Peace continue in new expressions.

Headline from December 4, 2002, "Peace Group founded to examine alternatives to war"

You are invited to explore these new encyclopedia entries and the intersection of the history of extracurricular life and current writing curriculum.

Davidson’s First Die-In

Many current Davidsonians are aware of the December 2014 die-in on Main Street, in which “a group of about 200 students and several faculty and staff members staged a die-in protest on Main Street Saturday night to protest police violence against people of color.” (The Davidsonian, December 10, 2014) However, this was not the first die-in at Davidson – the Davidson Peace Coalition organized a die-in on April 22, 1985. While our records on the Davidson Peace Coalition are not robust, we do have documentation of the die-in and reactions to the protest from the student newspaper, The Davidsonian.

Letter to the Editor from the Davidson Peace Coalition, April 19, 1985 titled, "Die-In"

Letter to the Editor from the Davidson Peace Coalition, April 19, 1985.

As their Letter to the Editor states, the Peace Coalition organized the die-in as “a symbolic action to show our concern about the increased militarization, by U.S. aid, of Central America in particular and our earth in general.”

A photo capturing students participating in the die-in inf front of Chambers Building. Students lying on the ground appearing to be dead outside of chambers while other students are walking out of chambers

A photo capturing students participating in the die-in in front of Chambers Building.

This image of the die-in ran in the April 26, 1985 issue of The Davidsonian. The image is of people lying on the ground to appear dead. The image and caption were the only coverage of the event, outside of Letters to the Editor.

This image of the die-in ran in the April 26, 1985 issue of The Davidsonian. The image and caption were the only coverage of the event, outside of Letters to the Editor and write-in opinion pieces.

In the issues following the die-in, The Davidsonian published a series of Letters to the Editor responding to both whether Davidson students should protest U.S. aid to the Contras in Nicaragua, and whether U.S. policies in Central America were justified.

James Lewis' letter expressing disapproval of the die-in titled, "Freedom"

James Lewis’ April 26 letter expressing disapproval of the die-in. Peggy Pierotti, the Photo Editor of The Davidsonian, had penned a much-criticized editorial that defined the “truly useful and utterly useless aspects of Davidson life” for the April 10, 1985 issue of the paper, called “Student Reflects On Life at Davidson.”

James Lewis’ Letter to the Editor inspired several responses from fellow students who disagreed with his read of the die-in:

Gordon Watkins' response to John Lewis, "Die-In Tried to Dispel Apathy," ran on the opinions page of the May 3, 1985 issue.

Gordon Watkins’ response to James Lewis, “Die-In Tried To Dispel Apathy,” ran on the opinions page of the May 3, 1985 issue.

Sharon Spong and Stu King's Letter to the Editor in response to John Lewis ran in the May 3, 1985 issue of The Davidsonian.

Sharon Spong and Stu King’s Letter to the Editor in response to James Lewis ran in the May 3, 1985 issue of The Davidsonian.

Anne Blue's response to John Lewis also ran in the May 3, 1985 issue. Anne Blue Wills is now a professor of religion at Davidson College.

Anne Blue’s response to Lewis also ran in the May 3, 1985 issue. Anne Blue Wills is now a professor of religion at Davidson College.

Russell Booker's sardonic response to the conversations on campus surrounding U.S. involvement in Nicaragua ran alongside a political cartoon on the subject in the May 10, 1985 issue of The Davidsonian.

Russell Booker’s sardonic response to the conversations on campus surrounding U.S. involvement in Nicaragua ran alongside a political cartoon on the subject in the May 10, 1985 issue of The Davidsonian.

Lewis then responded to his critics, also in the May 10 issue:

Lewis' "Contras Like 'Founding Fathers'" takes aim at the letters responding to his April 26 opinion letter.

Lewis’ “Contras Like ‘Founding Fathers'” takes aim at the letters responding to his April 26 opinion letter.

The May 10 issue was the last of the 1984-1985 academic year, and when publication of the newspaper began again for the fall semester, the die-in stopped appearing in the editorials page. The Davidsonian is one of the College Archives’ most heavily-used resources, and these opinion letters make clear why: the student newspaper provides valuable insight into what students thought and cared about while they were attending Davidson College. Furthermore, sometimes mentions in The Davidsonian are the only documentation we have of campus events or student groups. The Davidsonian continues to publish today, and we continue to meticulously gather and preserve the newspaper!

Differing Viewpoints

Compared to some larger college and universities, Davidson has fewer incidences of conflicts around controversial speakers. Still, Davidson presidents and public relations staff have had to respond to angry letters over guest lectures and even chapel talks.  The campus community also got involved in protesting North Carolina’s 1963 Speaker Ban Law. The law, which prohibited public schools from hosting speakers with Communist ties, did not apply to Davidson as a private college.

Education professor Jay Ostwalt wrote a position paper on the Speaker Ban Law noting that “The law is a threat to the vigorous intellectual climate of North Carolina– the state that has become the symbol in the South of intellectual dignity, high purpose and vigorous thought. The nation is watching us and is disappointed in what they see happening. . . . Instead of an image of a vigorous and open society, we are creating the image that we are petty, vindictive, narrow and afraid the future cannot be grasped and guided.

4 April 1965 Davidsonian article with the heading, "AAUP Writing Article On Speaker-Ban Law"

4 April 1965 Davidsonian article.

During the same semester in 1965, college president D. Grier Martin defended the student YMCA chapter’s choice of Paul Goodman as a speaker for a program on sex and ethics.  Martin replied to one critic writing that while he shared the concern and “would not have invited” Goodman himself,

“we have followed a policy of giving reasonable latitude to our student groups in the speakers whom they invited to the campus and in most instances this has worked our extremely well. We find that our faculty as well as many members of our student body take the opposite viewpoint from speakers coming to Davidson and this creates intense discussion and usually ends up with the students receiving not only knowledge but wisdom and understanding in some of the complicated matters which are facing all of us in these difficult times.”

Martin was fairly experienced with speaker critics by 1965.  His office file on Speakers – Criticism is a full one. The YMCA created another storm of letters with an invitation to Dr. Michael Scriven to speak on “The Non-Existence of God.”

Headline from 7 February 1964 Davidsonian, "An Atheist Shakes Foundation"

Headline from 7 February 1964 Davidsonian

Concerns expressed by critics include:

“If an atheist came to my home, I think I would try to treat him civilly. But I am sure not going to invite a proponent of atheism to come into my home and unload his wares into the minds of pliable youth.”

“My heart has truly been broken, as I have realized that our Southern Presbyterian Church is in the hands of the liberals.”

“I do not see how any good could come out of having an atheist come to a Christian college, expressing his views to a body of young men. I have taught a Sunday School class for over thirty-nine years at the First Presbyterian Church here and have been teaching teen-agers for many years. I have tried over the years to instill Christian faith into the young people and have been very careful not to bring up anything that would express doubt.”

“I seriously question the wisdom of having on the campus such a speaker as Dr. Scriven. In nation so socially confused and science oriented as America is today, it seems to me that the damage such an individual can do far outweighs any intellectual value he might bring to the students of the school.”

“Most of the atheists and infidels with whom I have talked are narrow minded and will not give God a chance. Neither will they be polite to other persons. Davidson College should invite some Bible Christians to speak publicly. Such as: Senator Strom Thurman of South Carolina, a great statesman.”

Not all the writers opposed the speaker:

“We are both amazed at the apparent fear expressed by some supporting friends of Davidson to allow an open expression of conflicting thoughts within the policy and practice of a church-related institution. . .  [We} want you to know of our wholehearted support of the highest level of academic freedom and of religious conviction. Only in this manner can the youth of today be adequately prepared to meet the tremendous influences of this present world as well as the surprising and revolutionary world of tomorrow.”

Only the alumni of the 1960s can say now whether the talks on sex, atheism and communism had any influence or if they even remember the controversies. We can only wonder what 21st century topics could generate the same intense responses as those of the 60s.


With the campus moving into summer mode, the idea –if not the reality–of leisure beckons.  The reality is that much of campus stays busy behind the scenes and that leisure has been an important topic for the archives all spring.

Once again, Professor Shireen Campbell found a creative way to introduce first-year writing students to the joys and perplexities of archival research.  Her WRI 101 class became contributors to the Davidson Encyclopedia through the topic of Leisure and Play. The class explored the theme in many ways looking at “who has been given or had the right to leisure and play as well as how these concepts are defined or constrained by age, class, race, and/or gender.” The course description continues:

Readings will range from Plato and Aristotle to Thorstein Veblen and scenes from Parks and Recreation.  Major projects will consider commercial representations of leisure, visions for and structures of local parks, analysis of student leisure at the college in the early 20th century, and non-profit attempts to “organize” leisure.

For the analysis of student leisure at Davidson, we picked a small range of topics and let the students delve into exploring and defining specific activities. They focused on the years between the 1860s and 1940s. Starting with sports, social events, religious life and clubs as the general topics, the final encyclopedia entries ended up being Arts and Communication Clubs, Dating at Davidson, Intramural Baseball, and the YMCA.

Within these entries, the class discovered the first student singers and the role that ROTC (decidedly not a leisure activity) played in developing more extracurricular activities such as concert and pep bands.

Early ROTC band - precursor to concert and football band

Early ROTC band – precursor to concert and football band

In an “only at Davidson” twist, one member of this group came across a continuous novel titled Caldwell Pharr Johnston, only then to discover that the title used the name of a real Davidson student, class of 1925 who was a grandfather of another member of the group.

Caldwell Pharr Johnston, class of 1925 and grandfather to a member of the class of 1919

Caldwell Pharr Johnston, class of 1925 and grandfather to a member of the class of 1919

The student working on early visual arts needed to get creative since artists were slow to organize -but quick to contribute sketches to yearbooks and newspapers. On the other hand, the religion group found so much material in the archives YMCA records that they focused on all the roles that group played on campus from orientation to scout troops to religious life and even finding ways to get young women on campus.

The first student handbook, "The Students' Handbook of Davidson College Davidson, N.C.", "Volume X 1916-1917"

The Y’s involvment with students started with orientation and the first student handbooks.

The sports group discovered that intramurals go way back– even before flickerball– and that they helped inspire a riot.  To find out more check out the latest entries and share in our thanks to a great professor and our newly minted researchers.





Thank you to all who share

Happy thanksgiving from Around the D.  This week, we’re highlighting some of our 2015 donations.  Along with the regular transfer of files from campus offices and departments, donations from alumni and friends help build our collections.  We are very grateful for those gifts.

The very first donation of 2015 brought back memories of the 1960s and the college’s very active Civil Defense Committee. This copy was used by chemistry professor Thomas Logan.

1962 Handbook for Civil Defense, "For Training Purposes Only Guide For Community Fallout Shelter Management"

This handbook for Civil Defense was added to RG 3/1.2.058

Music history has been a theme this year. Starting with donations of scrapbooks and materials related to music professor James Christian Pfohl.

1940-1941 Davidson College Musical Organizations Symphonic Band Concert Orchestra Glee Club scrapbook.

Musicians were busy enough in 1940-1941 to fill an entire scrapbook.

We learned more about Neal Scott, class of 1940 with the receipt of a booklet of radio interviews that included a program on him and his WWII service.

Cover of interview collection, ""Good Evening..." The Star-Bulletin Presents William Weing"

Cover of interview collection

Scott's image from the booklet, Ensign Neal Anderson Scott.

Scott’s image from the booklet

A Japanese plane crashed into the ship Scott served on. Although severely burned, he called out “Keep the guns firing, mates.” He died shortly after leaving as his last words, ” To Dr. L. R. Scot, Goldsboro, North Carolina. To have you and mother for all these 24 years has been all that I could ask for in this world. Neal.”

Another donation from the 1940s came in the form of 3 mounted photographs submitted to the Camera Club Exhibit for 1940. The photographs were by Angus Lytch.  He was an active photographer as a student and the archives photograph collection has almost 100 images taken by him.

Lytch title this one "Boo" and Dave, two runners mid stride

Lytch title this one “Boo” and Dave

Fitting for a year that saw the opening of the Vance Athletic Center, we received a scrapbook and memorablia from Harry L. Vance, class of 1926.

Vance's varsity "D" framed with news clippings about his sports achievements.

Vance’s varsity “D” framed with news clippings about his sports achievements.

Another scrapbook, created by his classmate Wade Hampton Allison came in adding to our understanding of student life in the 1920s. Along with photographs of students and campus, Allison used his scrapbook for a diary. Entries for November 1925 include:

Went to see Mrs. Smith tonight and had a big feed. Wrote to Happy and to Laura & home as usual.
Two letters today! Whoopee! Nice long one from Piggie and actually one from Eliza.Had Law review, but didn’t make 100 this time. Big races in Charlotte but too much to do here.
Big pep meeting and bonfire. On to Duke! Judged a debate & ha to give decision to the Pans.
Thanksgiving. Beat Duke 26-0. Left after game for Laurens. Took supper at Torrence’s. Spent night in Spartanburg. Got to Laurens at 8:30am. M. Mart met me. Mrs. looked well & was so glad to see me.

Page from Allison's scrapbook dated November 1925

Page from Allison’s scrapbook

From slightly later in the 1920s comes the list of physical feats required to become a member of the honorary Sigma Delta Psi.

The Davidson Sigma Delta Psi Required Tests document

The Davidson Sigma Delta Psi chapter existed from 1929 to 1968.

Going a little further back in time but just in time for an Africana Studies class project this semester is a bound typescript of a book written by John A. Leland who taught at Davidson from 1854 to 1860. In 1879, he wrote about Reconstruction in South Carolina.

Title page for Voice from South Carolina by John A. Leland, PH.D.

Title page for Voice from South Carolina

These are but a sample of the donations received since January 2015.  To all donors — thank you for deepening our collections and providing research materials for current students.  It takes a community to document a community!

Celebrating Davidson’s Music History: James Christian Pfohl

As October heads to a close, so too does Archives Month. The theme set this year by the Society of North Carolina Archivists was “Celebrating Archives: North Carolina Arts, Crafts, and Music Traditions,” and we’ve had events all month long to celebrate Davidson’s archival history in those three areas (such as a mandolin concert and an art exhibition focusing on pieces in the College’s collections from North Carolina artists). In that vein, the blog this week highlights one of the most seminal figures in the history of the Davidson College Music Department: James Christian Pfohl.

James Christian's Pfohl's faculty portrait, circa 1945.

James Christian’s Pfohl’s faculty portrait, circa 1945.

Student musical groups and organizations date back to the mid-1800s, with students forming the choir for religious services and more casual gatherings, including playing in the cupola of the Old Chambers Building. The first glee club was formally established on campus in 1890, a college orchestra appears in our archival records in 1892, and the glee club, chapel choir and a whistling club were all mentioned in the first issue of Quips & Cranks in 1895. Students (such as Alonzo Pool in 1892-93 [Class of 1893] and Daniel McGeachy in 1895-96 [Class of 1896]) or outside music instructors (Gertrude Williamson and Eulalia Cornelius, both in 1896-97, for example) were sometimes paid by the college to instruct non-credit-bearing courses.

By 1925, the demand from students for music instruction was such that the February 12th issue of The Davidsonian featured an article urging the administration to hire a music director:

“We find a student body of six hundred young men with latent musical tastes and talents that, would in time, if properly husbanded, make the musical standard of our church second to none, not even of the celebrated German communities. When the call was issued for candidates for the Glee Club this year, one-sixth of the entire student body were interested enough to appear for the trials. Every year the incoming freshman class brings in a wealth of talent along instrumental lines, but the case is usually that only the three or four best secure enough recognition to sustain them in their musical work, and by their senior year, their talent has all but atrophied with disuse.”

The cure for that atrophying of student musical talent would be to hire a musical director, who “would have charge of the musical organizations of the college, stimulate interest in things musical, and would train the students in the rudiments of music, both of singing and appreciation.” Perhaps in response, in 1927 the college hired Ernest J. Cullum as Director of Music and Associate Professor of the History and Appreciation of Fine Arts. The history of music and arts appreciation courses Cullum taught, the first offered for credit at Davidson, were listed through the history department. Cullum stayed on until 1931, when funding for the position was cut. During this time teachers from Charlotte and Mooresville were engaged to offer private lessons in piano, organ, wind, and string instruments, and students funded the hiring of Carol Baker from Charlotte to direct the Glee Club for several years in the mid-1920s.

When James Christian Pfohl (1912 – 1997) was hired by the college in 1933, he was a recent graduate of the University of Michigan (Bachelor’s of Music, organ) and would go on to earn a Master’s of Music (musicology) from that same university in 1939. Pfohl was instrumental in building the music program at Davidson – he began as the sole employee of the department, when he focused on developing student music organizations in addition to working as the college organist; as he put in a summary report in 1951, the year before he retired from Davidson, student groups were fundamental the establishment and growth of music program: “In many ways I feel that organizational work has been our most important, as it has been from these groups that the influence of music has spread on the campus and throughout the entire area.” Similarly, in his obituary (April 1, 1997), the Charlotte Observer exclaimed that “He was a musical zealot, a tireless builder of organizations such as the music departments at Davidson and Queens colleges, the Charlotte Symphony and Jacksonville Symphony orchestras and Brevard Music Center.”

"What Can You Do About It?" ran in The Davidsonian early in Phofl's tenure at Davidson - November 15, 1933.

“What Can You Do About It?” ran in The Davidsonian early in Phofl’s tenure at Davidson – November 15, 1933.

Pfohl was indeed a tireless builder – by his second year on the job, he had established the Davidson Concert Series, a new symphonic band, and a new symphony orchestra. According to Mary Beaty’s A History of Davidson College, then College President Walter Lee Lingle (Class of 1892, President 1929 – 1941) convinced the college’s Board of Trustees that music was an important part of maintaining Davidson’s academic profile: “This is done in many other high grade colleges… the great Educational Associations of America are stressing the importance of Music and Fine Art in colleges.”

In addition to his work building new organizations and initiatives, Pfohl also maintained the work of the Glee Club, football band, and ROTC band. He also organized broadcasts of the Symphonic Band over Charlotte radio station WBT. As evidence on this growth and interest, additional music faculty were hired – by 1935, Warren Babock, Moreland Cunningham (Class of 1935), Franklin Riker, and Louise Nelson Pfohl were also working in the department.

Another one of Pfohl’s major initiatives began in the summer of 1936, when he established a summer music camp for boys at Davidson, inspired by his experience as a scholarship student at the Interlochen Arts Camp as a youth. The music camp Phofl began still continues today – it was held at Davidson until 1943, when it spend one season headquartered at Queens College in Charlotte. In 1944, Pfohl moved the camp to Brevard, NC., and in in 1955, the camp and its programs were renamed the Brevard Music Center.

A postcard showing Pfhol leading the summer camp band in 1936.

A postcard showing Pfohl leading the summer camp band in 1936.

By 1938, Pfohl had made another lasting contribution to Davidson: he provided lyrical arrangement for “All Hail! O Davidson!,” the college’s alma mater. The words were written by George M. Maxwell (Class of 1896) on the occasion of the college’s centennial in 1937; originally intended as a fight song, Phofl envisioned the song as more of a hymn. By 1952, “All Hail! O Davidson!” began being printed in commencement programs. The lyrics have been changed a few times since 1938, most recently by committee in 1996, to reflect coeducation.

Sheet music for "All Hail! O Davidson!" (image from a 2010 entry on the song in Davidson Daybook).

Sheet music for “All Hail! O Davidson!” (image from a 2010 entry on the song in Davidson Daybook).

On May 25, 1943, the faculty voted that: “Credit will be given for Applied Music within such limitations as the Curriculum Committee may prescribe, provided that, so far as concerns requirements for graduation, there be allowed a maximum of 30 hours credit in Music, of which 12 may be Applied Music.” This expansion of credit-bearing courses was a boon for the department, and Pfohl was elected a full professor of music by the Board of Trustees in 1946, replacing his previous position as “Director.”

A Davidson Symphonic Band Christmas card, circa 1940s.

A Davidson Symphonic Band Christmas card, circa 1940s.

In 1949, Pfohl began working as the conductor and music director for the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. Three years later, he resigned his position at Davidson in 1952 in order to conduct the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra (while simultaneously remaining in his position with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra until 1957, and continuing to lead summer camps at the Brevard Music Center until 1967). In 1959, he began music directing for an educational TV program in the Jacksonville area, The Magic of Music. In 1961, Pfohl left his post with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, and went on to direct the York (PA) Symphony Orchestra and Reston Little (VA) Symphony. His accomplishments included conducting four performances at the White House, establishing the Mint Museum Chamber Orchestra (1944 – 1961) and serving as inspiration and sounding board for the founders of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He retired to Jacksonville in 1983, where he remained until his death in 1997. Pfohl was survived by his second wife, Carolyn Day Pfohl (his first wife, fellow Davidson and Queens College faculty member Louise Nelson Pfohl passed away in 1968), and three children: James Christian Pfohl, Jr., David Pfohl, and Alice Pfohl Knowles.

The cover of J.C. Pfohl's 1933-1934 scrapbook, covering the first year he began working at Davidson.

The cover of J.C. Pfohl’s 1933-1934 scrapbook, covering the first year he began working at Davidson.

The music department has flourished since James Christian Pfohl’s time at Davidson – currently, students can major or minor in the subject, with a vastly expanded curriculum led by faculty and artist associates. Pfohl’s legacy of establishing student organizations and gaining credit for applied music left a strong base for future generations of faculty and students to build upon, and his family recently donated several scrapbooks assembled by Pfohl during his time at Davidson and beyond. Come into the archives to see more about music history at Davidson in the 1930s through 1950s!