This month, the University of Notre Dame Press is proud to release Black Domers: African-American Students at Notre Dame in Their Own Words edited by Don Wycliff (ND ’69) and David Krashna (ND ’71). This book tells the compelling story of racial integration at the University of Notre Dame in the post–World War II era. In a series of seventy-five essays, beginning with the first African-American to graduate from Notre Dame in 1947 to a member of the class of 2017 who also served as student body president, we can trace the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of the African-American experience at Notre Dame through seven decades.
Before World War II the Notre Dame campus was off-limits to young African-American men aspiring to a college education; as a result of the war, the university’s doors were finally opened. In 1957, Congress passed the nation’s first civil rights act since the post-Civil War Reconstruction period. After signing the bill into law, President Dwight Eisenhower tapped Father Theodore Hesburgh, the young president of Notre Dame, to serve as a charter member on the United States Commission on Civil Rights. When Hesburgh took over as president of Notre Dame in 1952, there were fewer than a dozen African-American students; by the end of the 1950s, there were only a few more than that. But progress was being made, according to Father Hesburgh, “through great and deliberate effort,” progress that continues to recent years when, for instance, the incoming freshman class of 2016 was the first at Notre Dame in which one in four members was a student of color.
According to Notre Dame’s president Rev. John I. Jenkins. C.S.C., from the book, “Much has changed for the better at Notre Dame since 1944; this collection offers a narrative of that progress. I know it has not been easy. That progress required struggle and sacrifice on the part of many, and mostly from African-American students, faculty, and staff.” Father Jenkins continues, “We must go further and we will. But as we do, we must remember the contributions of so many people over the past seventy years to make Notre Dame a more richly diverse and inclusive place. For this is not a matter of mere numbers; it is, in the words of the Notre Dame diversity statement, a ‘moral and intellectual necessity,’ an affair of the mind and the heart.”
Originally published by undpressnews.nd.edu on August 31, 2017.at