Desegregation at W&L

Since its first incarnation as Liberty Hall in the 18th-century up until the early 1960s, Washington and Lee had not admitted any students of color to attend their undergraduate institution. W&L’s 1964 Board of Trustees announcement of non-discrimination came in a moment of national change. The 1960s witnessed the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, both events to which the nation could not close its eyes. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prompted action that could not be ignored; in this period, it became clear that if colleges and universities had any hope of moving forward and retaining their status as leaders in education, they would have to integrate or the integrity of their institutions would suffer.

W&L’s Board of Trustees, in hopes of maintaining prestige, released a statement in the Fall of 1964 expressing that “no resolution of the Board has established a policy of discrimination among qualified applicants for admission.” This exhibit will examine several documents involving the faculty, administrators and student body regarding W&L's desegregation.