Just Being There
by Linda Lee,
WAKE FOREST MAGAZINE, July, 1970
The alumnus was talking about
human relations and integration at the University, and he was smiling broadly:
"Anybody who has been
associated with Wake Forest knows that the University has come a long
way. It's a good place to be. You have a good faculty -- open-minded people
who are really sort of moving with the times. You can really say that
on the whole the atmosphere on campus is very healthy.... Not that Wake
Forest has achieved any kind of perfection yet, but Wake Forest is still
forging ahead. I think anyone who has graduated from here would probably
be proud of what the University has done and is doing."
The speaker was peculiarly
well qualified to make the evaluation: he is Edward Reynolds, the man
who brought integration to campus, the first black student to graduate
from Wake Forest.
In 1962, Ed Reynolds, a young
student from Ghana, came to Wake Forest because he "thought it would
be very nice to have a part in bringing down the racial barriers in a
major American university."
"I had no illusions about
being a crusader," he says.
There is only so much one
person can do. The important thing was just being here and being myself."
In 1970, Ed Reynolds, a doctoral
candidate at London University and an ordained Baptist minister, is teaching
summer school at Wake Forest. He will go to London in the fall to complete
his thesis, and then will return to the United States -- he is not yet
sure where -- to "teach and preach." And, he adds, again with
a broad grin, he intends to be a missionary to the United States; he plans
to offer help wherever he sees a spiritual need. One of the major needs
he already sees is in the area of human relations. While emphatic in his
praise of developments at Wake Forest, Reynolds is also eloquent in his
expression of the problems that linger here and on other campuses. He
uses a discussion of the difference between desegregation and integration
to explain what he views as the main trouble: the legal, physical act
of desegregation has been achieved at Wake Forest, at most other schools,
and in most areas of society, he says. But true integration -- a term
that to him is more a matter of attitudes and spirit -- is lacking.
"Now you say that black
people can come to Wake Forest," he says. "But the fact that
black people are admitted to an institution doesn't mean they are accepted
as a part of the community. Sure, there are more black students here now,
but that doesn't necessarily mean there has been progress in integration.
Most of the black and white students don't have that much to do with each
other. You can only get to know somebody through interaction, interchange
of ideas, and personal contacts. There aren't too many people here who
really sort of go out of their was to make friends with people of another
race. There probably is going to have to be much more of this if there
is going to be any real integration on this campus or anywhere else."
Reynolds said that, ironically,
he as the first black student may have found more of this genuine integration
than do the more numerous black students of today, and part of the reason
may have been because he was a foreign student as well as a black student.
He was brought here through the efforts of a student group which specifically
wanted to integrate Wake Forest. The students asked Baptist missionaries
in Africa to recommend worthy students, and it was through a missionary
in Ghana that they found Ed Reynolds. When the students first brought
Reynolds to the States, Wake Forest was still legally segregated, so he
studied at Shaw University while waiting for the barriers to be removed.
"Isn't it strange,"
Reynolds asks, "that Wake Forest students who wanted to integrate
had to go across the Atlantic to find a black student?" He quickly
adds, however, that for his sake he is glad they did. "I don't want
to sound ungrateful. I am very grateful for the opportunity to come here.
And when I came there were quite a few people who were very dedicated
to helping me make the adjustment." He specifically remembers the
friendliness of the Baptist Student Union, Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity,
the Ministerial Student Alliance, Chaplain Edgar Christman, Dean Robert
Dyer and Dr. David Smiley, in the history department.
Reynolds made friends among
students and faculty, joined organizations, and did well academically.
He recalls only one unpleasant incident he received a picture of a gorilla
in the mail but shrugs that off as "too trivial to mention."
Yet, despite the ease with which he was assimilated into the University
community, Reynolds understands many of the complaints black students
voice today particularly their feelings of loss of identity.
"When I was here, I was
very happy at Wake Forest, and I was very much accepted, but in a way,
deep down, I needed to identify with something," he remembers. He
could not find that identity he needed within the white community, however
friendly and accommodating it might be, but fortunately he was able to
establish lasting friendships within the black community in Winston-Salem
The young African, away from home, in a strange environment, spent many
refreshing evenings and weekends with black townspeople. During the summer
school session this year he lives with the Rev. Jerry Drayton, pastor
of New Bethel Baptist Church and a particularly close friend.
Reynolds' recollections of
his own identity problems help him understand the plaint of today's black
students. "Here are people looking for an identity, and without that
identity they are going to be lost as they attempt to integrate into your
white society," he says. He sees student Afro-American societies
such as the one at Wake Forest, Afro hair and clothing styles, and African
history courses such as the one he is teaching, as healthy assertions
of the black student's search for identity. He predicts that the emphasis
on African heritage will continue for perhaps a decade, until black people
feel they have an identity of their own apart from, but compatible with,
that of the white society around them.
"It's not the black man's
fault that he needs an identity," he says. "You white people
have frustrated him. So often integration has just taken the black man
and tried to make him a white man -- it has robbed him of everything he
has, his culture, his identity, everything. But without that identity
he's a lost creature."
But Reynolds is quick to explain
that he does not want the search for black identity to result in a kind
of reverse racism, in some sort of African separatism. He would particularly
encourage more desegregation and integration of colleges and universities
such as Wake Forest, making sure that the integration is a beneficial
kind involving the incorporation of two races with distinct but equally
valuable attributes. "It's not right to bring a black student to
Wake Forest, a white world, and give him a white man's education without
any regard for the society he lives in and will have to go back to he
won't be able to function effectively in his society. But neither can
you give him just a black education. You need to take society as a whole.
A black man, like a white man, has certain needs and interests and a university
education should be broad enough to give both the background they will
need to cope with both the black world and the white world," he says.
"Once the identities
are established, then you can really begin to talk about integration in
a meaningful way, about an exchange of ideas on an even plane. But meanwhile,
while we wait for true integration, the process of desegregation has got
to go on."
What can Wake Forest do to
facilitate integration? Reynolds believes subtle factors such as the liberal,
Christian attitudes of faculty and students are much more valuable than
any conscious efforts. But he sees a few planned steps that can be taken:
The University can continue
to recruit more non-athlete blacks. Reynolds sympathizes with the black
athletes here and elsewhere who have said they often feel they are accepted
only as athletes, not as people. "This is a part of the American
tradition: you always have recognized the Negro's usefulness as being
in his muscle," he says.
A good number of these students
should be resident women. One of the major, and Reynolds feels quite legitimate
and serious complaints of the black athletes is that they have such a
limited potential social life.
The University can continue
to offer courses such as Afro-American history and to recruit black professors.
Most of the progress, however,
he feels will have to come through evolving attitudes, an admittedly slow
process. Reynolds has some advice he would like to be able to offer to
He would warn the black student
that "he may or may not be accepted here, but that by coming here
he has a duty to himself first, a duty to get an education. He will be
deceiving himself if he thinks people are going to give him something
in terms of favors, or grades because he is black. Whatever he gets,
he is going to have to earn, and he will probably have to work twice as
hard as a white student to gain recognition."
He would urge the white student
"to recognize that the black people he meets are just people like
himself; that they should be treated with the same respect as any other
student, and accepted as simply other students on campus.
"I would tell them that
the black man on campus is not here to act as a therapy for the guilt
of the white man. He's simply here to get an education. He is a human
being like the white man; he cannot be otherwise."
But Reynolds is too shy, too
unassuming really to preach these ideas. When he finishes in London, whether
he comes back to Wake Forest or some other American school, he plans to
conduct his missionary efforts primarily through the same strategy he
used when he first came to Wake Forest: "Just being there and being
| Publications | Articles
| Images | Biographies
| Citations | Syllabus