On April 27, 1962, trustees made the decision to end racial segregation at Wake Forest and the University became the first major private college in the South to integrate.
Fifty years later, Wake Forest kicks off “Faces of Courage,” a yearlong celebration of the historic decision and how it has shaped the University.
President Nathan O. Hatch, Provost Emeritus Ed Wilson and Assistant Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Barbee Myers Oakes will speak at 1 p.m. on Friday, April 27, in the Porter B. Byrum Welcome Center’s auditorium. They will share the story of how students and faculty set the University on the path toward becoming an inclusive community and how Wake Forest continues to build on that work.
“By recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Board of Trustees’ decision to end racial segregation at Wake Forest, we will bring to life the many stories within our rich history that showcase the depth and value of our commitment to diversity and inclusion,” Hatch said.
Oakes is co-chair of the “Faces of Courage” committee planning for a year of celebrating the course Wake Forest has taken. “Compelled largely by student petitioning and protesting to end racial segregation, the 1962 decision is considered one of the most transformational moments in our University’s history,” she said.
She will outline the “Faces of Courage” initiative and plans for related speakers, book readings, art events, concerts, panel discussions, campus gatherings, an oral history project, service opportunities, and student life activities during the 2012/2013 academic year.
Events will begin in the fall—coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the enrollment of Wake Forest’s first black student, Ed Reynolds—and run through the spring.
“’Faces of Courage’” provides an excellent catalyst for continued conversations and awareness at the University,” said Matthew Simari, a senior from Texas serving on the committee. “We can learn a lot from our history. If we are concerned about the values of Wake Forest, we must exhibit the courageous leadership of our predecessors. Will we solve all inclusion and diversity issues on campus in one year? No. Can we start? Absolutely.”
Two years before the desegregation decision, a group of Wake Forest students walked into the Woolworth’s in downtown Winston-Salem and joined black students from Winston-Salem State Teachers College to protest segregated lunch counters. Then, students involved with the Baptist Student Union formed a group to help bring the first black student to Wake Forest.
“This moment provides an opportunity to honor our past, recognize our progress, and have conversations that will help us further develop a vision for the future,” said Matt Williams, program coordinator of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and co-chair of the “Faces of Courage” committee.
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