Fifty years later – the integration of Wake Forest University
 
 
It is perhaps hard to now remember or believe, but there was a time when athletes like Tim Duncan or Chris Paul could not have worn the “Old Gold and Black” and represented all that is good about Wake Forest University. 
 
                On a coming September weekend at Homecoming, Wake Forest is poised to celebrate and remember Ed Reynolds, once a nineteen year old from Ghana, who a group of Wake Forest students, known collectively as the African Student Program, selected as their candidate to gain admission to the undergraduate school in a final push to remove the racial barrier prohibiting such admissions.
 
                It was not easy. Though a faculty resolution in support of a racially free admission policy had been approved, the Board of Trustees would not say yes. But the students would not accept no, and so they, along with the support of several faculty members, mainly from the Department of Religion, kept the pressure on and raised enough money to bring Ed Reynolds to the United States. He was enrolled in Shaw University, and in January, 1962 the school finally began to move to change the policy.
 
                In March, the Wake Forest Baptist church, located on the campus, moved to allow all persons, regardless of race, to worship there. Pressure was building.   And on April 27, 1962, the trustees, in a vote of seventeen to nine, voted to integrate the college.
 
                Ed Reynolds, made all A’s at Shaw. He started Wake Forest, first in summer school, and then went on to graduate with honor, finished graduate school and became a professor of history. Wake Forest, though it had taken many years, became the first major private school in the South to integrate its student body.
 
                My older brother Glenn, then a student at Wake Forest, was a prime mover in the African Student Program, also became a professor of history and will be back in Winston-Salem in a  few weeks to talk about those times, the sit-in demonstrations in downtown Winston-Salem, the difficulties they faced, the unpopularity in some quarters, including the school, they encountered.
 
                But for several college age students, the early 1960’s, with the support, advice and encouragement of wise and courageous faculty professors, became a very special time. The three words, “African Student Program” don’t take up much space under a senior’s picture in a school annual. But the lasting contribution to the university and indeed everyone could fill a complete book.
 
                In the late summer of 2010, a long time professor of religion at Wake Forest, MacLeod Bryan died. He was the one most instrumental in guiding and supporting the efforts of the students to desegregate Wake Forest. I spoke to Glenn about his passing, and I still remember what he said. Simply, “he was a great man”.
 
                So it is now fifty years later, and Wake Forest is a different place. It is more open. It is more free. In part, that is because of the imagination, determination and courage of young people long ago.
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