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HISTORY THROUGH ORATORY: AFRICAN-AMERICAN ALLOCUTION, 1927-2002

Throughout its history, Winston-Salem State University has often provided a forum for prominent African-Americans to publicly address contemporary issues, challenge predominant thought, and promote new ideas. Likewise, the institution’s presidents and chancellors have often taken advantage of opportunities to discuss their experiences and present their opinions to the community and their professional peers.

This collection of oratory reflects many of the most pressing issues facing African-Americans at the time. These 15 digitized speech drafts and transcripts address a variety of concerns over a 75 year period, from longer school terms in 1927 to unemployment during the depression and communism in the cold war. A sampling of speeches in the 1950s and 1960s address the challenges and successes of integration and belie the popularity of black power in Winston-Salem during the 1970s. Addresses in the 1980s often note controversy over the role of historically black colleges, current world and political events, and excesses of the “Me Generation.”

Click on the title below to view the speech. Extant programs are also provided for event context and biographical information about the speaker.

North Carolina Negro Teachers Association - President’s Address, Nov. 23, 1927 Former WSTC President Simon G. Atkins discusses the challenges of teaching Negro children. He provides a history of the NCNTA and African-American education, noting the influence of northern missionaries, N.C. Newbold, and N.C. Governor Bickett. Issues facing the association include longer school terms, better salaries, and improved consolidated schools. Program

“The College and the Community” - Radio Program, ca. 1940 WSTC President F.L. Atkins explains why the reasons Negroes attend college are changing. Because employment as teachers can no longer be assured for African-American college graduates, he reminds them of their duty to the community, regardless of their job.

Remarks at Dedication of Carver Crest School (Winston-Salem, NC) - May 13, 1952 F. L. Atkins provides a brief history of “Negro Schools” in Winston-Salem, praising the school board for improvements and the new Carver Crest High School. He dedicates most of the speech to denouncing persisting inequalities in “separate but equal” educational facilities, employment opportunities, and bus/train terminals for African Americans. Program

“Progress of a College and Expansion of its Business Office” - Address to meeting of college business officers at WSSU, ca. 1957 F.L. Atkins uses examples from twentieth century history to promote statesmanship in education. His discusses the challenge of enrollment growth, which requires additional facilities and finances, and discusses the measurement of progress at colleges.

“The Peril of Communism” - Wake Forest University Chapel Talk, March 21, 1957 F.L. Atkins provides a brief history of Russia and its revolution before addressing theevils of communism, including its denial of individual freedoms and promotion of hate and “Medieval concepts.”

Summer School Commencement Address - Livingston College, Aug. 1, 1958 F. L Atkins compares Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision. Atkins explains how the landmark case helped to erase the concept of a “ Negro School.” Program

Remarks at Founders Day Program - Fayetteville State Teachers College, April 24, 1960 F. L Atkins notes the contributions of Charles Chesnut, E.E. Smith, and others in creating educational opportunities for African-Americans, especially at Fayetteville State. He expounds upon the “new era in Negro education” that began during Reconstruction and the struggles African-Americans have suffered through in their quest for education and advancement. Program

Winston Mutual Life Insurance Company - 56th Anniversary Program, Aug. 9, 1962 F.L Atkins praises the leaders of the prominent African-American owned and operated business and other Winston-Salem community leaders. He claims that the “onward march of freedom and dignity” has produced progress on many fronts such as education, transportation, and sports for African-Americans. Program

Anderson High School Commencement Address, June 2, 1965 F.L. Atkins praises the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board for changing with the times and being true educational leaders. He encourages the graduates to likewise be of good character through gratitude and high htmirations.

“Howard Fuller Has Spoken” - Address at WSSU, Oct. 1970 Famous activist Howard Fuller admonishes blacks who have relationships with whites, those who do drugs, black women who participate in the women’s liberation movement, and those who think a college degree will lead to good employment by whites as being attitudes and activities detrimental to the independence of African-Americans.

WSSU Founders Day Address - Sept. 24, 1978 University of Cincinnati Vice-Provost and WSSU alumnus Calvert H. Smith reflects on individuals who impressed or had an impact on him, including Clarence “Bighouse” Gaines, Kenneth Williams, and Thomas Conrad. Smith praises WSSU for meeting the needs of black students who feel alienated in white schools and notes the irrelevance of SAT scores in determining academic success. He calls for true integration and equal opportunity in education. Program

WSSU Founders Day Address - Oct. 4, 1984 Former Chancellor Kenneth R. Williams gives a brief history of WSSU and compares it to Livingstone College. He addresses WSSU’s acceptance of students with low SAT scores and claims that students attend the college “to feel more black.” Program

WSSU National Alumni Association Unity Day Address, April 6, 1985 Chancellor Haywood Wilson discusses the history of WSSU, challenges currently facing it, and recent successes. He specifically bemoans claims of a watered-down curriculum, criticisms of accepting students with low SAT scores, and President Ronald Reagan’s proposed financial aid cuts.

WSSU Commencement Address, May 7, 1988 Historian, educator, and administrator Helen G. Edmonds explains to graduates how education is a key to employment and personal betterment. She urges them to pay back student loans, citing a recent study criticizing historically black colleges for their graduates’ default rate. She also urges graduates to embrace honesty in an era of disbelief, deception, and greed, citing examples such as the Iran-Contra Affair and televangelist scandals. Edmonds also discusses the “quiet riots” of poverty and unemployment, her classification system for blacks, and the importance of strengthening family bonds. Program

WSSU Commencement Address, May 11, 2002 Actor, director, and humanitarian Danny Glover encourages graduates to take advantage of the citizenship that many sacrificed for to make available to them. He notes the importance of voting, given the 2000 presidential election, people taking responsibility to end suffering in Third World countries, being involved, having an opinion, and examples of volunteers at schools in impoverished communities such as St. Helena, SC, and Jackson, MS. Program

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