The Rice Thresher (Houston, Tex.), Vol. 50, No. 18, Ed. 1 Wednesday, February 27, 1963 Page: 7 of 10
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WED* FEBRUARY 27, 1963
IN 1928: A NEAR-RIOT
Integration Sentiment Building Since 1947
BY GRIFFIN SMITH don'lj care what w© think of you from Rice students. The rule
Integration of Rice, if approved
by the courts, would put the Uni-
versity in accord with campus
beliefs that have been building
steadily over the past fifteen
The history of student attitudes
toward integration of the school
has been a tortuous one; during
Rice's early years, in fact, the
subject was virtually taboo.
The only item of record before
the 1930's deals with a fake
document read before a 1928 ban-
quet of the Pre-Law club. The
document, purportedly a Faculty-
Administration appeal "in the
name of Equality" for support of
a new policy of accepting Negro
applications, drew "gasps of in-
dignation" at the students' meet-
ing when it was read. A Thresher
story vividly recounts the scene:
"DOWN WITH THE Black
Apes," Shouts the Southern
majority. "Negroes at Rice ? Hell,
no! I'll be damned if I'll go to
school with a Negro — even if
they are clean!''
When one "Northerner" argued
that integration was a "normal
thing to do in this free land of
equality," the room became "a
seething mass of pei'spiring faces
and wild tempers." Those who de-
fended integration were "almost
hooted out of their seats" and a
3-1 majority in favor of segrega-
tion was recorded before the
scheme was revealed as a fraud.
In January, 1932, the first club
was formed on campus to study
"racial hatred." However, its
leaders approached the .subject
cautiously, never mentioning in-
tegration and proposing only to
"look every question squarely in
the face and recognize its merits
after careful consideration."
As late as 1935 The Thresher
could still run a front-page
feature on South America head-
lined "Dogs Are Much More
Costly Than Niggers In Pana-
ma." It went on to point out that
"niggers are so plentiful that the
loss of a few does not matter,
while dogs, however, are scarce."
The article di-ew no adverse com-
ment. Meanwhile, the Rice Dra-
matics! Club knuckled under to a
demand by the United Daughters
of the Confederacy that they
cancel their planned performance
of "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
BUT THE SAME atmosphere
which produced misunderstanding
and vindictiveness had a sur-
prisingly sympathetic and human
side. An indication) of this came
in 1937, when an illitei-ate Negro
handyman and athletic trainer,
Jack Shelton, died. Hundreds of
students came to the funeral of
"Nigger Jack," and the editorial
columns of The Thresher paid
tribute to him as one of the most
beloved figures on the campus.
During and after World War
II, the ability of these two moods
to exist'side-by-side broke down.
Criticism of segregation appeared,
gently at first. In 1943 a Negro
visitor to campus condemnedMt
as discrimination. "We know
you," he warned, "because you
At 3600 Block
Bowling Is HeldM
and don't try to conceal your
thoughts from us. But you don't
know us because we Negroes have
to hide our feelings."
Still, there was no suggestion
that Rice itself be integrated, or
any firm expression of sentiment
A 1949 View
The Rice administration's
view of the school's charter
has changed with the times. In
the midst of agitation for inte-
gration of the school in 1949,
President W. V. Houston wrote
this letter to the Thresher:
"I have noticed some of the
recent discussion in The
Thresher concerning the pos-
sible admission of negro (sic)
students to The Rice Institute,
and have concluded that some
of the Thresher staff, as well
as most of your correspon-
dents, must be unaware of the
provisions of the Rice Insti-
"The Rice Institute was
was founded and chartered spe-
cifically for white students.
The question of the admission
of negroes is therefore not one
for administrative considera-
tion, and the discussion in this
connection is entirely aca-
which prohibited Negroes on
campus after 5 p.m. remained in
effect, and the strongest opposi-
tion to the traditional social struc-
ture (up to that time) was simply
the argument that fully equal
facilities should be provided for
The real opening of . the debate
on integration of Rice came with
several letters in 1947 by stu-
dents "opposed to racial discri-
mination in any form." One sug-
gested that since there were no
Negro graduate facilities in Tex-
as for scientific study, "why
should not Negroes be admitted
The November, 1947, issue of
the R. I. magazine carried a fea-
ture entitled, "Should Negroes
Be Admitted to Rice?"
By 1948 The Thresher, was ad-
vocating, against strong criticism,
the policy that "all students who
apply for admission to the In-
stitute should be judged equally
and solely upon scholastic quali-
fications and capability." These
views provoked at least one
2525 Rice Blvd.
furious letter from an alumnus,
while,thq topic became a blazing
issue on campus. There were at-
tempts to impeach the editor,
At one point, proposals were
made that a petition favoring in-
tegration be circulated, but The
Thresher opposed it, advocating
the "slow and tedious road" of
discussion instead of "action."
Tyson, the titular leader of the
pro-integration sentiment, wrote:
"THROUGH OPEN-m i n d e d
and sincere discussion of differ-
ences it will be possible to
eventually eliminate the fog of
bias, fear, suspicion, and hate
which has so long condemned the
American Negro to his sub-
But a letter from President
W. V. Houston (see box) took
the position that because of Rice's
charter, any discussion of inte-
gration was "entirely academic."
This squelched the issue for a
year and a half.
But a student's letter in late
1950 set the ball rolling again
with the assertion that the
Charter could be ignored if the
Institute really wanted integra-
tion: "the lawyers and trustees
are not going to be stifled by the
Rice charter any more than the
Supreme Court is by the U.S.
Constitution—unless, of course,
they want to be."
The student, Farrell Fulton,
prophesied, "the issue of the
(Continued on Page 8)
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The Rice Thresher (Houston, Tex.), Vol. 50, No. 18, Ed. 1 Wednesday, February 27, 1963, newspaper, February 27, 1963; Houston, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth231229/m1/7/: accessed June 12, 2021), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Rice University Woodson Research Center.