Race Relations: 1961

Frederick Scott

Frederick Scott

In September of 1961, a student group called the Hopkins Committee on Basic Freedoms released a report entitled “Race Relations at Hopkins.” The report, based upon research done by graduate and undergraduate students, affirmed that the university had failed to take a strong moral stance on the issue of race relations, preferring instead a “neutral” stance that made it complicit in the contemporaneous pattern of racial discrimination persistent in the broader community of Baltimore. The report specified several areas in which the university’s efforts were lacking. First, it claimed that housing was “the area in which racial discrimination [was] most active and most limiting to the Negro student.” Of the housing accommodations advertised by Hopkins, only 10% were open to all Hopkins students: many of the householders with which Hopkins partnered still refused to rent to African-Americans. The Committee felt that in listing these householders in their housing brochures, Hopkins was sanctioning segregation.

Next, the report addressed problems and shortcomings in graduate and undergraduate admissions. Although the first African-American undergraduate was admitted in 1944, by 1961 Hopkins still had very few black applicants. In 1961, only “about 6” of the 2000 applicants were African-American. According to the department chairmen interviewed for the report, few black students applied or were accepted to Hopkins because they were often unprepared to compete with the other candidates, due to educational disadvantages in lower education. Furthermore, Hopkins’s location south of the Mason-Dixon line gave it an inherent reputation for racial discrimination, and black candidates who were good enough to gain admission often preferred to go to Northern schools of similar quality, where there was less chance of discrimination. Finally, African-Americans were often less able to afford Hopkins tuition than other candidates.

Committee for Basic Freedoms 1961 Report on Race Relations Page 1

Committee for Basic Freedoms 1961 Report on Race Relations Page 1

Besides admissions and housing, the Committee also observed that Hopkins hired very few African-Americans in anything except menial jobs. It claimed that employment interviews at JHU showed evidence of “insulting racial discrimination.” The report made several recommendations to address the problems it found. First, the University should stop listing (and therefore sanctioning) housing that was not available to all Hopkins students. It should use its leverage in the community to encourage local businesses and landlords to end discriminatory policies. Second, it should stop employment discrimination and comply with Baltimore’s Equal Opportunity Employment Ordinance. Finally and most importantly, the university should fight its reputation for discrimination by visiting predominantly black high schools (which in 1961 were not included in admissions tours), cutting ties with associations that practice discrimination, and publicly stating its opposition to racial segregation and discrimination.

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