Western Celebrates Desegregation Anniversary

By: Ryan Dearbone
By: Ryan Dearbone

1971 Western Kentucky University graduate Howard Bailey says he can still remember what it felt like to be part of the first major influx of African-Americans on campus in the early sixties.

"We found campus to be accepting in some ways and in other ways in the classroom situations primarily, we didn't get an overly warm welcome."

Prior to 1956, no blacks were allowed to attend to the "then" Western Kentucky State College.

"The desegregation process was not without its challenges. There were whites still somewhat suspicious of blacks being on the campus. There was still the Kentucky State College for Negroes in Frankfort," explains John Hardin, an Associate Professor of History at Western.

Bailey's memories as a student vary from acceptance to issues of racial discrimination.

Despite the hardships of coming into a new situation, he says they persevered.

"Our determination of coming out of the 60's we did not intend to let racial attitudes keep us from being successful," notes Bailey.

"The world is diverse so the presence of African-Americans on Western's campus is a part of that process," adds Hardin.

Since integration began on WKU's campus half-a-century ago, African-Americans have become a part of Western's culture through academics and athletics.

Despite the steps forward, Bailey, who is now the Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs for Western...says there is much work to be done for total equality on campus.

Nearly forty years after Bailey first became a Hilltopper, he says the choice they made back then still resonates today.

"We didn't set out to be trailblazers. We found ourselves in a situation and we dealt with it."

Western honored the anniversary in February with several programs and by publishing a book on the integration of Western.


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