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Berea College

An Illustrated History

Shannon Wilson

Publication Year: 2006

The motto of Berea College is “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” a phrase underlying Berea’s 150-year commitment to egalitarian education. The first interracial and coeducational undergraduate institution in the South, Berea College is well known for its mission to provide students the opportunity to work in exchange for a tuition-free quality education. The founders believed that participation in manual labor blurred distinctions of class; combined with study and leisure, it helped develop independent, industrious, and innovative graduates committed to serving their communities. These values still hold today as Berea continues its legendary commitment to equality, diversity, and cultural preservation and, at the same time, expands its mission to include twenty-first-century concerns, such as ecological sustainability. In Berea College: An Illustrated History, Shannon H. Wilson unfolds the saga of one of Kentucky’s most distinguished institutions of higher education, centering his narrative on the eight presidents who have served Berea. The college’s founder, John G. Fee, was a staunch abolitionist and believer in Christian egalitarianism who sought to build a college that “would be to Kentucky what Oberlin was to Ohio, antislavery, anti-caste, anti-rum, anti-sin.” Indeed, the connection to Oberlin is evident in the college’s abolitionist roots and commitment to training African American teachers, preachers, and industrial leaders. Black and white students lived, worked, and studied together in interracial dorms and classrooms; the extent of Berea’s reformist commitment is most evident in an 1872 policy allowing interracial dating and intermarriage among its student body. Although the ratio of black to white students was nearly equal in the college’s first twenty years, this early commitment to the education of African Americans was shattered in 1904, when the Day Law prohibited the races from attending school together. Berea fought the law until it lost in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1908 but later returned to its commitment to interracial education in 1950, when it became the first undergraduate college in Kentucky to admit African Americans. Berea’s third president, William Goodell Frost, shifted attention toward “Appalachian America” during the interim, and this mission to reach out to Appalachians continues today. Wilson also chronicles the creation of Berea’s many unique programs designed to serve men and women in Kentucky and beyond. A university extension program carried Berea’s educational opportunities into mountain communities. Later, the New Opportunity School for Women was set up to help adult women return to the job market by offering them career workshops, job experience on campus, and educational and cultural enrichment opportunities. More recently, the college developed the Black Mountain Youth Leadership Program, designed to reduce the isolation of African Americans in Appalachia and encourage cultural literacy, academic achievement, and community service. Berea College explores the culture and history of one of America’s most unique institutions of higher learning. Complemented by more than 180 historic photographs, Wilson’s narrative documents Berea’s majestic and inspiring story.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Front cover

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pp. iv


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pp. vi-vii

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pp. ix-xi

For over twenty years, the history of Berea College has been my history. First as a student, and now as the college archivist, I have become intimately acquainted with the remarkable people and events that make up Berea’s story. Early in my career, an alumna introduced me to her husband with the best compliment...

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pp. 1-8

THERE are many who believe that Berea College is one of America’s most distinctive colleges because of have seized their role in a purposive way that we can call a mission.Then among those that have been strongly purposive, only some are able to sustain and develop the mission over time to the point of success and acclaim....

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1. The Witness to Impartial Love

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pp. 9-32

AMERICA in 1855 was a nation awash in excitement. Reformers denounced the evils of liquor and to meet the wants of the region. Not withstanding its earnest advocacy of liberty, and opposition to caste, it grew rapidly in reputation and efficiency. It became so great a power, that leading men in this section of the State John G. and Matilda Fee. “This I found in her,” Fee wrote of Matilda, “that...

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2. Forecasting the Millennium

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pp. 33-56

THE administration of Berea’s first president, Edward Henry Fairchild, gave institutional form to Fee’s but having faith in the rectitude & stability of their institutions,...

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3. Working for God and Humanity

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pp. 57-74

BEREA COLLEGE faced several challenges with the arrival of William Boyd Stewart as its second unique in its constituency and Christ-like in its aims, gleaming with the sacred jewels of learning and illumined by the holy light of truth, shine in the coming year seven more brightly than today, and dispense, till Christ shall come, ...

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4. The Telescope and the Spade

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pp. 75-102

A NEW world opened for Berea College with the second, unanimous election of William Goodell Frost to the presidency. Frost’s opportunity came out of the controversies that had shredded William B. Stewart’s unhappy administration, yet many believed that...

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5. Bristling with History

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pp. 103-128

WHEN William J. Hutchins became Berea’s fourth president in July 1920, he stepped into a history that reflected significant changes in the understanding of Berea’s story. Under the leadership of...

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6. More Than an Ordinary College

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pp. 129-160

BEREA COLLEGE in 1939 emerged from the Great Depression consisting of two schools. The first was the Foundation School, which served students in junior high and the first two years of high school. The second was the college, divided into Lower...

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7. A College of History and Destiny

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pp. 161-178

AT the end of Francis Hutchins’s administration in 1967, Berea College had endured World War II, pushed through curricular and administrative reorganizations, and reclaimed the historic ideal of integrated education. Conscious of his father’s discomforting...

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8. New Magic in a Dusty World

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pp. 179-200

BEREA COLLEGE in 1984 now defined its mission in terms of the Great Commitments. The Christian motivations of service, interracial education, liberal learning, and service to Appalachia were salient features of Willis Weatherford’s administration...

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9. Continuing to Be and to Become

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pp. 201-220

BEREA COLLEGE in the 1980s had achieved national recognition as one of the finest colleges in the South. Under the leadership of John B. Stephenson, the college developed innovative programs for serving Appalachia and advanced a new...

Appendix One

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pp. 221

Appendix Two

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pp. 222-223


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pp. 225-236

Select Bibliography

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pp. 237-240


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pp. 241-246

E-ISBN-13: 9780813171845
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813123790

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2006