Recommended Readings Commemorating Desegregation at Furman University

For those interested in learning more about Furman's road to desegregation, we offer the two most comprehensive accounts of those events. In the two articles linked below, Courtney Tollison '99, Assistant Professor of History at Furman, and Brian Neumann '13 examine many of the same events at the center of the story but draw contrasting conclusions about why Furman desegregated.

In Pursuit of Excellence: Desegregation and southern baptist politics at furman university

By: Courtney Tollison '99
Source: History of Higher Education Annual

In 2005, Dr. Courtney Tollison published an article on the events leading to Furman's desegregation​ in the History of Higher Education Annual. Tollison concludes that Furman desegregated as a necessary step in achieving “academic excellence by national standards,” a campaign envisioned by incoming president Gordon Blackwell. Tollison emphasizes the tension between Furman and the South Carolina Baptist Convention during the segregation controversy, and she connects that tension in this specific dispute to others through the ages between the Baptist Convention and the university administration over policy and, ultimately, control of the university. While emphasizing that desegregation was necessary for Furman’s aspirations to raise its academic profile, Tollison also indicates that, by 1965, the costs of not desegregating, in terms of funding and academic prestige, were prohibitive.

Progress, Pragmatism, and Power: Furman's Struggle Over Desegregation

By: Brian Neumann '13

Brian Neumann’s article narrows the scope of the inquiry, providing a bit less context and bit more nuance in terms of the debates going on within the various university constituencies, such as the students, faculty, alumni, trustees, administration, and the convention. Neumann '13, a Furman graduate with a degree in history, wrote his article specifically for the commemoration. Neumann’s approach reveals divisions both on campus and in the South Carolina Baptist Convention over admitting black students. He stresses missed opportunities for the trustees to seize the initiative to end segregation at Furman, even as events on and off campus pushed them to act.  

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