The resolution also called for the examination of all buildings, monuments, and statues on campus for their historical context and to advance racial reconciliation.
Meanwhile, Harding University, a Church of Christ-affiliated school in Arkansas, garnered attention for rejecting a petition to change the name of an auditorium.
Many students wanted to change the name of an auditorium named after George S. Benson, a former university president known for his support for racial segregation.
“Rather than remove his name, the University needs to tell the more complete story of Dr. Benson,” stated the university in June, citing Benson’s mission work in China, establishment of the Canton Bible School, eventual integration of Harding in 1963, fundraising for many Christian colleges, and “his work in establishing the George S. Benson Teachers College in Zambia during the concluding decades of his life.”
“We need to tell the larger, complicated, multi-faceted story of this national icon that the Harding family knows as ‘Dr. Benson.’”
Even though the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education declared segregation unconstitutional, several states and local governments refused to enforce the ruling.
As a result, many public schools remained completely segregated or only had token integration at best. Some school districts closed their doors rather than comply.
Within this climate, many southern Christian schools struggled with how to respond to a Supreme Court order and the backlash, commonly labeled “massive resistance.”
The Christian Post looked at how three southern Christian schools from Protestant traditions that existed before the Supreme Court ruled racial segregation unconstitutional handled integration and race relations.
This included reaching out to both university administrators and alumni of Asbury University, Bob Jones University and Baylor University. Other southern Christian universities founded before 1954 that are not stand-alone seminaries were contacted, but they did not respond.
Bob Jones University
Based in Greenville, South Carolina, Bob Jones University was founded in 1927 by notable fundamentalist preacher the Rev. Bob Jones Sr.
“Individually, we are one in Christ; but God has also fixed the boundaries of nations, and these lines cannot be rubbed out without having trouble,” declared Jones, who did acknowledge that it was wrong to “mistreat a colored man or a white man or anybody else.”
“The darkest day the world has ever known will be when we have one world like they are talking about now. The line will be rubbed out, and the Antichrist will take over and sit down on the throne and rule the world for a little while; and there will be judgment and the cataclysmic curses found in the book of Revelation.”
BJU did not admit black students until 1971 and had a ban on interracial dating until 2000, lifting it soon after a presidential campaign visit by then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
Jon Dillon, pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church of Richmond, Virginia, who graduated in 1992, recalled that among students of different races, “the climate was good and the relations were good.”
“From the few minorities that I knew, that I had interactions with and everything, they seemed to be happy to be there,” Dillon told CP.
“And, in fact, several of them that I knew of were pretty popular on campus. A lot of people knew them, they had a lot of friends, that kind of thing.”
While noting positive interactions among the students, Dillon recalled that the university was nevertheless strict when it came to enforcing the interracial dating ban.
According to Dillon, he remembered an instance when a white female student had lunch with an Asian friend. The school interpreted the friendly meetup as being a date and disciplined her.
Dillon remembered there being “really funny rules” in place that were tied to the ban, such as mixed-race students having to clarify which race they would exclusively date in advance.
The Christian Post reached out to BJU for this story, but they declined to comment. CP later contacted the university to confirm the existence of the mixed-race student dating rule but received no response.
Since his time at BJU, Dillon believes that a lot had changed not only officially at the university, but at the cultural level as well.
For example, he and his wife attended a wedding of a white female friend who was marrying a Haitian man. Bride and groom had dated while both enrolled at BJU.
Schimri Yoyo, an alumnus who attended from 2002-2006, was the subject of public attention during his time there, notably through a widely read 2003 story, titled “Being Black at Bob Jones U.”
Yoyo told CP he believes the fair amount of news media focus meant his time at BJU was “not very typical” compared to most of the racial minorities enrolled at the university.