Not until the Supreme Court's unanimous decision in Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education (1969) was racial segregation put to a complete end "now and hereafter."1 Below, however, is a short headline piece in The Christian Centtury concerning Southern Baptists' progressive action favoring racial desegration in 1950. Our seminaries apparently were the first institutions of higher theological education to tear down the racial divide.
Southern Baptists Open Seminaries to Negroes*
The boards of three Southern Baptist theological seminaries have opened the way for the admission of Negro students next fall. On November 28, 1950, the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary at Fort Worth, Texas, became the first school in the denomination to take this significant step that will have far-reaching effects. Its board voted to approve the admission of qualified Negroes and "to notify our sister seminaries of such action and invite them to consider such matters." First to accept the invitation was the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Now it has been followed by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at Louisville, Kentucky. The Louisville seminary's resolution read: "Since legal barriers have been removed and because of the urgent need of adequate seminary training in the south for Negro Baptist students who are at present deprived of proper theological education, that beginning with the session 1951-52 carefully selected Negroes be admitted [as] candidates for the B.D., Th. M. or Th. D. [and] to classes, library, and all academic rights and privileges." The walls are tumbling down! That these actions have been taken in a denomination indigenous to the south, whose adherents represent all aspects of southern life and thought, makes them of even greater importance than if the schools belonged to a nationally organized denomination. Now that the Southern Baptists and southern Presbyterians have led the way in opening their seminaries to Negroes, it is to be expected and hoped that other denominations will quickly follow suit.
--The Christian Century, April 11, 1951
*I retained the older racial identifier rather than the preferred one today, "African American" solely for stylistic purposes. I trust no offense is taken by African American readers.
1Actually, 1969 was more of a "time's up" ultimatum for states to do what Brown vs. the Board of Education (1955) had ruled a decade and a half earlier. See the article entitled "End of Segregation in Public Schools" for a more complete treatment.