Commemorating 50 Years
of Black Women at Converse
2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the enrollment of our first Black students at Converse College. We reflect on our heritage and the work still ahead of us with a year-long series, Celebrating Courage and Charting the Future: Commemorating 50 years of Black Women at Converse.
The series began on February 9, with a panel of distinguished alumnae sharing their experiences with students, and continues into the fall with feature stories highlighting individual alumnae (beginning in September). The 50th anniversary was commemorated during a special Opening Convocation service in the fall. Finally, in the spring of 2019, the series will culminate with an exhibition highlighting Converse’s history of African American students developed by students as part of a class research project .
Dance Converse Presents: CHARTING THE FUTURE
Inspired by the lives and stories of the women honored by our Celebrating Courage series, Dance Converse performed an innovative dance collaboration illuminating key aspects of the journeys of these Converse alumnae. Drawing on photographs and interviews, using spoken word and an inspiring musical score featuring gospel, soul, jazz, and R&B music, CHARTING THE FUTURE explored themes of inclusion, isolation, and perseverance, revealing a hopeful vision of our future for all Converse women.
Meet Converse’s First Black Graduates: Freida Rodgers Byrd and Margaret Jones Swindler
Listening to Freida Rodgers Byrd ’72 and Margaret Jones Swindler ’72 banter back and forth you would think they are the best of friends. Yet, they were just recently reunited, first for lunch with President Newkirk and then for the February 2018 kickoff of the 50th anniversary at ‘Celebrating Courage: A Panel Discussion with Black Alumnae….’ Continue reading…
Recap: 2018 Opening Convocation
This historic milestone on September 21 welcomed all alumnae for a day-long celebration of our Black Alumnae, in conjunction with Converse’s formal opening of the academic year.
Participants joined us for Opening Convocation, lunch in Gee, and our special topic breakout sessions which included ‘Converse Uncensored: A discussion on diversity and inclusion at Converse,’ ‘A discussion on the Childish Gambino video, This is America,’ and ‘Philosophy of Culture: A discussion on culture and identity.’
Prior to Opening Convocation, Dr. Elder’s students led oral interviews with Black alumnae as part of a research project on Converse’s history of African American students. Their work will culminate in an exhibition in Spring 2019.
Our illustrious Black Alumnae processed with faculty and seniors into Twichell Auditorium for the Opening Convocation service, where members of the Gospel Choir performed.
Watch the video highlights from the day:
A Look Back:
Panel Discussion with Black Alumnae
In February 2018, Converse hosted the first event in its Celebrating Courage series: A Panel Discussion with Black Alumnae. Alumnae, current students, faculty and staff were invited to attend this powerful experience, as alumnae shared perspectives on their Converse experiences, creating a culture that embraces diversity, overcoming hurdles in their professional lives, the impact of mentors, building the network between alumnae and students, and more.
Featured panelists included Phyllis P. Harris ’82, Jayne Reuben ’85, Hon. Deadra Jefferson ’85, Candy Moore ’93, Dawn C. Davis-Deck ’99, Joy Stoney ’00, Stinson Woodward Ferguson ‘07, and Dr. Kay E. Woodward. Read more about their insights and comments here.
A Look Forward:
A Student Exhibit Commemorating 50 Years of Black Women at Converse
During Opening Convocation, students from Dr. Angela Elder’s African American History class conducted interviews for an oral history of the integration of Converse College. These students plan to showcase this history with an exhibit on campus from February 7 through February 21, 2019 in the lobbies of Phifer Hall. This exhibit will be open to the public.
Don’t Miss Out!
Are you receiving our monthly View from the Tower e-newsletter? If not, or if you aren’t sure, sign up now! Our newsletter is full of important information for Converse Alumnae, and will feature news and announcements about our Celebrating Courage events throughout the year.