Berea College stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and those peacefully demonstrating against police brutality across the country and around the world. Our founding in 1855 by radical abolitionists, the Reverend John G. and Matilda Fee, as the first interracial and coeducational college in the slaveholding South underscores our unwavering commitment to equality and equity. Black lives mattered to Rev. Fee and the early founders of Berea. When the Kentucky legislature passed the Day Law in 1904, prohibiting integration in schools, Berea College took the fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court because Black people would have had few educational opportunities in Kentucky without Berea College. The Court ruled against Berea College, and it was forcibly segregated in 1908. The College’s trustees raised money and redirected funds to establish Lincoln Institute in 1912 for Black students displaced from the College.
Stripped of its founding mission for over four decades, the College struggled throughout the Jim Crow era to reclaim an interracial heritage that includes such notable African American graduates as Carter G. Woodson – known as the father of Black history; Julia Britton Hooks, a teacher, suffragist in the fight for women’s rights, and the grandmother of former NAACP executive director Benjamin Hooks; and James Bond, the grandfather of civil rights activist Julian Bond. Grounded in a history of activism, Berea College demonstrated its commitment to human rights through its participation in the monumental March on Frankfort, Ky., in 1964 and the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965. Our involvement in that phase of the Black Freedom Struggle contributed to African American students founding the Black Student Union and the Black Ensemble (now called the Black Music Ensemble) in the late 1960s, and the institution establishing Black Studies in the early 1970s. In the post Civil Rights era, Berea continued its commitment to Black lives, opening the Black Cultural Center in the early 1980s and the Carter G. Woodson Center in 2012.
Throughout the past 40 years, dedicated efforts to recruit, enroll and retain a diverse student population, combined with increased hiring of African Americans in faculty and staff positions, have resulted in a campus community where nearly half of the students identify as people of color.
Still… we can and must do more. This moment calls for our support. Our history demands it.
In the era of Black Lives Matter, we’re working to ensure Berea College continues to fulfill its mission to educate blacks and whites together, living up to its motto: God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth (Acts 17:26). We reaffirm our commitment to interracial education, diversity, equity and inclusion, and dismantling white supremacy and systemic racism. Berea College commits to the following:
- Increase our efforts in recruitment, enrollment and retention of African American students from Appalachia and urban areas within our enrollment territory.
- Create an endowment to support the Carter G. Woodson Center for Interracial Education and the programs it offers.
- Establish an endowed professorship in interracial education responsible for creating a curriculum in interracial education that has a particular emphasis on understanding and equality among all peoples.
- Continue to support dialogue on race and education in a bi-annual symposium. The Carter G. Woodson Center for Interracial Education would collaborate with the Black Cultural Center, Student Life and the African and African Studies department to host the event, which will feature discussions on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in America and what the College and the community can do to dismantle white supremacy and systemic racism.
- Endow the Civil Rights Tour, hosted by the Carter G. Woodson Center, as an educational program that explores important locations involved in the Civil Rights movement in the American South.
- Introduce courses in Native American Studies into the Berea College curriculum to educate students about the history of indigenous people in Kentucky and throughout Appalachia.
- Continue to support educational initiatives through the office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. In one such initiative, the College will explore ways to formally recognize, celebrate and educate Bereans about the Juneteenth commemoration.
Berea College is guided by eight Great Commitments, among them one that asserts the kinship of all people. Standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, the College strives to uphold its commitment to creating an equitable educational community that welcomes, supports and values all members. We invite institutions of higher learning throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the South to join us in our support of the Black Lives Matter movement.