Union College has a short, but real history of segregation. The college didn’t start out segregated. Union ran fully unsegregated for the first 30 years of operation as students from across the world, brought to Union by mission work done by the Golden Cords, and throughout the United States came to the school Ellen White called “A light upon a Hill.”
This was Union’s mode of operation until the late 1920s, when a college president from the southern United States worried that parents of Union students from the south would stop sending their children to the college if they were assigned to sit next to a black student in the cafeteria (Cafeteria seating was assigned in those days.) He created a rule that the black students should be assigned to separate tables in the dining rooms.
The separation lasted for 14 years until a number of black students from Jamaica came in the 1940s. The Jamaican students were not segregated from the white students.
The African-American students on the campus believed it unjust that they should be segregated and the Jamaicans not, so they took their complaint to the president of the college.
The president at the time believed this was a logical argument and brought it to the Academic Dean and they agreed they should evaluate a change of policy.
They gathered together a group of around 40 students and faculty from the south and asked for their views on the matter of desegregating Union.
Some of the young men in the group spoke up, saying they had no problem with the change because they played basketball together with the African-American students and got along just fine.
This encouraged the administration, and they moved to remove segregation from Union College. Union’s history with segregation and students of color has not always been perfect, and problems are not always solved so easily.
There has been real pain caused to students of this college, and the college has made attempts to apologize and make amends in the past.
It’s important to keep these histories alive and remembered, so we might not make similar failures in the future.
Bry Galloway is a senior studying history.