AC NEWS


Oct. 1, 1951: AC helped lead racial integration of public colleges in Texas

by Joe Wyatt
Published October 1, 2020

The first day of October annually is a date of considerable significance for Amarillo College, and it has been for almost 70 years.

 
Racial IntegrationIN  

It was on Oct. 1, 1951, when AC welcomed its first black scholars into its student body and thus became one of the first three publicly supported Texas colleges to racially integrate undergraduate classes.

 

Enrolling that day were Celia Ann Bennett, Freddie Imogene Jackson, Willetta F. Jackson and Dorothy Reese. Bennett went on, in the spring of 1953, to become AC’s first black graduate.

 

The late Dr. Joe Taylor points out in his tome, The AC Story: Journal of a College, that it is unclear which public college in Texas was the actual frontrunner when it comes to integration; he leaves open the possibility that AC may indeed have been the first.

 

“Amarillo College was the first, or at least among the first, of three public institutions of higher education to admit Negroes to regular classes,” Taylor wrote in his book. “Texas Southmost College in Brownsville and Howard County Junior College in Big Spring had also voted to admit black students, but whether they had admitted any at that time isn’t clear.”

 

What is clear is that AC has been eliminating barriers to success for a number of decades now, and began doing so at a time when racial integration of schools was in fact still contrary to state law.

 

Previous to reaching its milestone decision, the AC Board, according to Taylor, was concerned about how the Amarillo community and AC students and faculty might react to its decision to desegregate.

 

As Taylor states: “All of this seems long ago and far away and one might wonder, today, why the hesitancy on the on the part of fair-minded men of good intentions; but it must be remembered that there was still a law on the books in Texas providing for segregated schools . . .”

 

Complaints, Taylor further notes, “were minimal,” and Amarillo College has been serving all its constituents equitably ever since – Oct. 1, 1951.


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