I’ve spent over two decades thinking about the history of race relations at Rice, first for my dissertation, then for the book that followed, and even now out of simple curiosity. One of the oddities in this story is that until this afternoon I’d never found a single trace of contact between Rice professors and the faculty of nearby black universities before the official desegregation in 1965. I always knew that couldn’t possibly be right, that there had to have been relationships and instances of cooperation, but they were kept so quiet that I long ago gave up hope of finding anything.
Then today I found this letter while digging around looking for a drawing of the original library basement, of all things. It was written by Hardin Craig, Jr., who was a history professor at Rice from 1946 until 1970 and head of Fondren from 1954 to 1968:
Craig’s correspondent, Earl McKinley Lewis, seems to have been a very great man. After he left Prairie View A&M he became the first African American faculty member at Trinity University and an important civic leader in the city of San Antonio. Follow this link for a lovely memorial piece about him. I lifted this picture of him from it.
Bonus: Santa seems to have made an early delivery to Fondren.