Community Response to Integration

After Headmaster Hoxton’s announcement to the Episcopal community on March 3, 1968 announcing the admittance of Sam Paschall and Regi Burns, the first two African American students, his office was flooded by letters and phone calls from parents and alums. Overall,  every negative written response was counteracted by ten positive responses. While some parents were concerned about how Episcopal’s integrated dorms would make boys think that mixed relationships with their daughters were acceptable, others offered their sons as potential roommates for the first African American students. While there were Old Boys who cut ties with EHS, there were also many alums who decided to contribute to the roll call because of the school’s decision to integrate.

Negative Reactions

"I am aware that many people, including some Old Boys, think that the High School has struck a valiant blow for the cause of "social justice" by going all out for the Negro. I do not question the nobility of these acts. I merely wonder about their effect on the future of an old southern school whose chief asset has been the homogeneity of its students."

The decision to integrate did result in a loss of donations to the school, but not every alumnus who was against integration cut ties with Episcopal. On the negative side, many who spoke out feared that an integrated boarding environment would lead to interracial relationships in their families. Episcopal's decision to admit two African American students in 1968, was one year after the monumental Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision, which struck down state laws banning interracial marriages. This timing created anxiety for some members of the community who felt like their culture and morals were being challenged. In addition, many against integration questioned the ability of African American students to keep up with Episcopal's academic rigor and expressed concerns about the school having to fulfill a quota of Stouffer Foundation students. In 1968, segregation was the only thing some of these men had experienced. While not excusing their responses, these beliefs must be viewed in the historical context of the time, their age, and background. This does not mean their responses were correct, but that they should be viewed with an understanding that the 1960s were a very different time and that people’s beliefs then do not represent their beliefs now. 

Positive Reactions

"I should like to express my pride in your recent decision to admit colored boys. Although an inevitability, your action reflects well the highest principles for which Episcopal stands and which she tries to instill in her students."— A recently graduated (1967) student

On the positive side, there were alumni who “didn’t know if Episcopal was good enough for the two black students”, “100 percent” supported the school’s decision to integrate, and were glad “Episcopal was finally catching up to the times”. These supporting voices far outweighed the negatives, and they gave Episcopal hope that its’ integration would be successful.