Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Michigan Today: The Negro-Caucasian Club

The Michigan Today, a newsletter for U-M alumni, published a special article about the history of black-white relations at the University of Michigan. While U-M today sees itself as a champion for diversity and inclusion, it wasn't always the case in the early twentieth century. Rather, it perpetuated a racist campus climate.

The first two African-American students had been admitted to U-M in 1868. But only a handful followed, and by the 1920s, blacks still comprised just a tiny fragment of the student body. By University practice and informal understandings, they lived in a segregated sphere, joining white students only in classrooms.

In that era only women lived in University dormitories – but not the six or seven black women enrolled at U-M. They lived in a boarding house arranged by the University. African-American men lived in either of two black fraternity houses, Kappa Alpha Psi or Omega Psi Phi, or boarded with black families. They were not served at the Michigan Union, nor were they allowed into University swimming pools or University-sponsored dances.


The faculty senate’s Committee on Student Affairs recognized the group as an official student organization for only one year, and only on two conditions: It must drop its stated purpose of working “for the abolition of discrimination against Negroes,” and “the name of the University of Michigan shall not be used in connection with the activities of the Club.”

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