In the era of Jim Crow, the University of Tulsa was subject to state laws denying African-Americans the opportunity to study alongside white students. This 1950 article and the one below entitled “Door closed for Negroes” document the first attempts by black students to gain admission to TU.
The administration appears to be ready to meet squarely the problem posed by the applications of two Negro women for admission to the University of Tulsa.
The two, Mrs. E. L. Hairston and Henri Mae Pete applied recently for admission to the graduate division and the law school respectively. Mrs. Pete, applicant for a law degree, probably cannot be admitted since it is against the policy of the law school to admit freshman students at mid-year. Many of the school’s courses are full year courses; these courses are begun in September and not repeated until the following year.
“This matter will of necessity take time to form policy,” President C. I. Pontius told the Collegian. “First the applications must be referred to the faculty committee on advanced standing for appraisal. Then they will be taken to the administration and Board of Trustees for policy decision.”
The two applications are the first ever received at the university from Negroes. The applications raise legal, as well as social, questions.
The University of Tulsa is a non-profit Oklahoma corporation. As such it is subject to the state laws and constitution. These include traditional southern Jim Crow laws which may make it impossible for Negro students to attend TU legally on a non-segregated basis.
Tulsa has a somewhat different legal status from Okla. A&M and the University of Oklahoma. The US Supreme court recently ruled that segregation was legal so long as equal educational opportunities were offered to all races. Graduate work has been opened to Negroes at the state schools to conform to this decision. Tulsa, as a private school, would not be affected by the decision. The university might successfully be prosecuted for allowing Negroes to attend the school on a non-segregated basis. This is a distinct possibility under current state laws.
Ultimately the 15-member Board of Trustees will decide how the university will handle the applications. Dr. Pontius pointed out the school is a private institution, and as such may accept or refuse anyone admission.
Student reaction to the applications was varied, but tended to favor admission of the Negroes, if qualified.
A poll of approximately 600 students taken two years ago by the Collegian showed student sentiment then favored admission of “qualified” Negroes to the university by a two to one margin.
While Martin Luther King Jr.’s death was not mentioned in the Collegian issue published the week after, the murder of the civil rights activist had shaken the campus by the time of this editorial, written by Ronnie Berner two weeks after the fact.
A Man is Dead.
And the United States of America continues to claim it is a civilized nation. It is not, if judged by the actions of its people.
In the past 100 years, more political leaders have been killed by assassins’ bullets in the United States than any other one country in the Western hemisphere.
Even more disgusting is the reluctance of this country to let a man die. He lives post-mortem for three or four days on nationwide television, until he is finally buried in a media-istic carnival atmosphere, sponsored to the grave by Gulf Oil, Lay’s Potato Chips, or whoever can capitalize on a man’s death to sell a product.
Those close to this man did not ask for fanfare, and his widow’s and children’s grief was only multiplied by the media monsters.
It seems that those who knew this man best would have been more favorably impressed by quiet sincerity than by conscience-inspired eulogy. Sorrow, after all, is an individual emotion.
What he stood for, however, should not and most certainly will not be buried with him. Ideals are not so easily killed. They will live a dynamic, aspiring life, although severely crippled by the wounds of ignorance.
Yes, ignorance was the psychopathological cause of his death. The assassin merely pulled the trigger—the weapon was loaded and the conspiracy was conceived by societal ignorance, manifested in mass psychosis.
In death, Dr. Martin Luther King became that which he and most Americans cannot or will not become—FREE.
Wichita State halfback Linwood Sexton faced numerous challenges throughout his 1946–1948 college football career on account of his race. Despite his established skill and importance to the team, he was often denied the opportunity to play in matches south of his home state due to strict racial segregation laws. Tulsa students reacted to their school’s refusal to allow Sexton to take the field with this editorial.
The Hurricane won a hollow victory last Saturday, for always in the minds of Wichita rooters will remain the idea that if Sexton had been here, the score might have been different. That question is certainly not fair to the Golden Hurricane, who would have defeated the Shockers, Sexton or no Sexton. But we can’t prove that.
Why did this university allow itself to be placed in such a predicament? Contrary to some opinion rife on this campus, Wichita students were bitter over the exclusion of Sexton. The Shockers dedicated the Tulsa game to Sexton and named him honorary captain for the day.
So, once again the University of Tulsa has missed the boat on a Negro problem. Instead of being a leader in the field of racial relationships, we are just another follower of the general herd.
When will this cease?
Wichita can play Drake and be at full strength for the game, but when the Shockers drop below the border, players of a different race must be left behind. This makes for a very peculiar conference standing. If you will pardon the expression, it smells.
The fans were deprived of the chance to watch a well-publicized star perform, and the newspapers had a field day levelling criticism at the University of Tulsa. All in all, our reputation took a beating this past week.
The Collegian wants Wichita students to know that the predominating sentiment on this campus was to forego the racial bar. Better than seven-out-of-ten students wanted to watch Sexton in action. It will probably take another war, but someday we may see democracy mean something around these parts.
Appearing in the same issue of the Collegian as “Free At Last” (above), this letter details student measures to protest even simple racial categorization, such as that found on university enrollment forms of the day.
This letter is in explanation of the posters which have recently saturated the school. The posters are headlined with the question: RACE? and the answer: HUMAN; they request the student body to fill in the space on their enrollment forms designating race with the word human.
We (several members of the student body) find the question of race totally irrelevant for enrollment purposes. When a man joins the armed forces the knowledge of race is valid because race is a valuable means of identification if he is mutilated in battle. But there are no such dangers at The University of Tulsa. By proudly proclaiming himself to be a human, each individual student will be able to protest the color conscious society in which he lives.
We admit it is a small action, but any step out of the depths of assininity is important. We therefore urge all enrolling students to forget their pigmentation and remember that above all they are humans.
We do not wish to sign our names because we feel that what is important is not who begins the project, but that the project is begun.
Two would-be TU Negro students were refused admission by the board of trustees Tuesday.
Mrs. E. L. Hairston wanted to do graduate work in education in the downtown division and Mrs. Henri Mae Pete sought admission to the law school. The trustees pointed out Oklahoma laws permitting the enrollment of Negroes on a segregated basis in state owned or operated schools.
TU is privately endowed. Since Negroes cannot enter either the downtown division or the campus, the trustees suggested that some courses of study at the graduate level of the downtown division should be made available in a separate unit.
Such a unit might be established at Booker T. Washington high school or some other suitable location.