The University of Maryland, like many educational institutions, has a complicated history of race relations. For a long while, the university didn’t allow African American students on campus, due in large part to President Harry Clifton Byrd’s fight against integration.
The university finally integrated in 1950 after the Board of Regents decided to admit Parren Mitchell, who had sued for admission to the graduate school. Even after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that required integration at public schools, the university saw only a minimal increase in the minority student population.
In the early 1960s, when the Civil Rights Movement was gaining steam, African American voices began to be heard more on campus. Between the inception of numerous cultural clubs and Civil Rights protests like those held by the Black Student Union on the steps of the administration building, the university took more notice of the African American struggle.
In January 1967, The Diamondback ran a series of articles to chronicle the African American experience for a wider audience. The series delved into issues of racial tension, exclusion, and perpetuation of stereotypes.
According to the student paper, racial issues declined after the Brown v. Board of Education decision was handed down. The university modified its admissions forms to remove questions of race, and the Residence Hall Association said they handled roommate complaints based on racial differences just as they would between any two people.
One article also discussed the struggles of many minority students to secure off-campus housing. In one anecdote included in the story, a group of young black men submitted their security deposit, heard nothing back for a month, and when they called back, they were put on hold perpetually, so while issues were decreasing, they certainly weren’t resolved.
Other stories within this series discussed the pre-conceived notions that white students held. Some of these pre-conceptions made meeting fellow students difficult, and dating was especially hard for black women, who said they felt more ostracized than black men in dating circles.
There were also the obstacles presented by Greek life, a predominantly white subset of the student population.
Some students felt so out of place on campus that they expressed to the paper how it was one of the first times that they truly felt different. Many students said they struggled to communicate with teachers and fellow students because of those differences.
Through this series of articles in January 1967, The Diamondback helped bring some of the important racial issues of the day to its readers. These reports provide a critical window into the past that allows the campus community to assess progress on these topics over the past 40 years and determine future actions to improve diversity and inclusion at UMD.
The Diamondback is the university’s primary student newspaper, and its coverage of campus events provides an invaluable perspective on the university’s history. Thanks to generous donations and a successful Launch UMD campaign, the University Archives is digitizing the entire run of the newspaper, which is currently available on microfilm in the University Archives and McKeldin Library. This post is the part of a series based on information collected during the Diamondback Digitization Project. Check out the Twitter hashtag #digiDBK or the DigiDBK tag on our Terrapin Tales blog for previous posts. Look out for more DigiDBK posts from our team throughout the coming months!