At Tackle, Chester Pierce

January 31st, 2011

The last post of my blog, tracing the early days of racial integration on Grounds (“The Desegregrated Heart”), sparked a number of fascinating recollections and discussions from our alumni. One was an exchange between two Psychology majors—Tom Pettigrew ’52 and Brawner Cates ’67—about the first integrated football team to play south of the Mason-Dixon Line, Scott Stadium, 1947. On April 15 of that year, Jackie Robinson played first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers against the Boston Braves. On October 11, Chester Pierce, an African-American, played tackle for Harvard against Virginia. It was the practice at that time for integrated college teams to leave their black players at home when they played in the South. Read the rest of this entry »

The Desegregated Heart

January 17th, 2011

On the occasion marking the birth of Martin Luther King Jr., we might pause to reflect on the early days of integration at the University of Virginia, going back now six decades. It was in 1950 that Gregory Swanson, a black attorney from Danville, successfully sued to gain admission to the Law School. For years, African-American scholars had been seeking admission to the graduate program, going all the way back to 1935, when Alice Jackson of Richmond applied to the graduate school in French. She was sent away, as others later would also be, accompanied by a state scholarship to study at a northern university of her choice (in this case, Columbia University). But Gregory Swanson took a different tack, and actually enrolled at the University, if only for a brief period. One of the changes he made occurred to the mind and heart of Sarah Patton Boyle, social activist and author of The Desegregated Heart, published in 1962. Read the rest of this entry »