1945

Segregation Ends

On, April 20, 1945, Reverend James H. Robinson, minister of the Church of the Master in Harlem and a prominent civil rights activist, came to speak at Wheaton. Following his talk, he engaged students in a four-hour discussion, during which he argued that African-American women could be happy at Wheaton, and urged the College to take steps to create scholarships for capable African-American students.

President Meneely spoke to the board of trustees about the practice of segregation at Wheaton. On June 3, 1945, the board officially agreed to open admission to “colored students,” should any qualified individuals apply.

In October 1945, a group of Wheaton students followed his suggestion and raised $601 for scholarships for African-American students. This was done without President Meneeley’s knowledge and, had he been told about it beforehand, it is likely that he would have put a stop to the fundraiser. The administration believed that prospective African-American applicants should compete for the same scholarship funds as white students. The administration believed this would lead to applications from African-American students of a higher academic caliber.

After finding out about the scholarship fund, President Meneeley wrote to trustee, Harriet Hughes, saying, “Whether it was decided to place me in an embarrassing position or not, I recognized at once that if I repudiated the project, I would be branded anew as a foe of liberalism, and we would have had a new controversy seething on campus. To avoid this, I announced in chapel my approval of the project and my willingness to make a personal contribution. This took the wind out of their sails…”.