Race and the University: A Memoir

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University of Oklahoma Press, Nov 19, 2011 - Social Science - 272 pages

In 1967, George Henderson, the son of uneducated Alabama sharecroppers, accepted a full-time professorship at the University of Oklahoma, despite his mentor's warning to avoid the "redneck school in a backward state." Henderson became the university's third African American professor, a hire that seemed to suggest the dissolving of racial divides. However, when real estate agents in the university town of Norman denied the Henderson family their first three choices of homes, the sociologist and educator realized he still faced some formidable challenges.

In this stirring memoir, Henderson recounts his formative years at the University of Oklahoma, during the late 1960s and early 1970s. He describes in graphic detail the obstacles that he and other African Americans faced within the university community, a place of "white privilege, black separatism, and campus-wide indifference to bigotry." As an adviser and mentor to young black students who wanted to do something about these conditions, Henderson found himself at the forefront of collective efforts to improve race relations at the university. Henderson is quick to acknowledge that he and his fellow activists did not abolish all vestiges of racial oppression. But they set in motion a host of institutional changes that continue to this day. In Henderson's words, "we were ordinary people who sometimes did extraordinary things."

Capturing what was perhaps the most tumultuous era in the history of American higher education, Race and the University includes valuable recollections of former student activists who helped transform the University of Oklahoma into one of the nation's most diverse college campuses.

 

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Contents

The Setting
Lessons for Rebels
Creation of the AfroAmerican Student Union
Seeds ofa Rebellion
Public Fallout and the ASU Push Back
The End of the Beginning
Too Little but Not Too Late
Ida Elizabeth Beth Mack Wilson Reminisces
Adversaries Bystanders and Allies
Postscript
Notes
Index
Copyright

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About the author (2011)

George Henderson is the Sylvan N. Goldman Professor Emeritus, David Ross Boyd Professor Emeritus, and Regents' Professor Emeritus of Human Relations, Education, and Sociology at the University of Oklahoma, where he founded the Human Relations Program and served as Dean of the College of Liberal Studies.

David W. Levy is retired as the Irene and Julian J. Rothbaum Professor of Modern American History and David Ross Boyd Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author of Herbert Croly of the New Republic: The Life and Thought of an American Progressive and Mark Twain: The Divided Mind of America’s Best-Loved Writer and coeditor of seven volumes of the letters of Supreme Court justice Louis D. Brandeis.