Del Mar's integration history part of new African American History course
Article by: Michael Bratten
It was a groundbreaking move when Del Mar College integrated classes in 1952, two years before the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision banning segregation in schools.
The local event, which happened without a stir, is part of the discussion this spring during the college’s first offering of the course, African American History.
People have probably learned about Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, but this class will introduce them to individuals they may not know about who are important in the country’s history.
“For example, David Walker was protesting against slavery all the way back in the 1820s, and Esteban, who was here with (Spanish explorer) Cabeza de Vaca, was one of the first black people to arrive in America.”
Along with Welch, the course is being taught over the next three semesters by Brian Hart, professor of history, and Dr. Dawson Barrett, assistant professor of history.
Then and now
An estimated 30 African American students enrolled at Del Mar that fall semester of 1952. In fall 2017, the college had 318 African American students, accounting for about 3 percent of the student population and mirroring the ethnic makeup of the Corpus Christi area.
Every day in Del Mar’s Harvin Student Center, students pass a copper art piece and plaque dedicated to Lavernis Royal, one of those first pioneering students and a gifted artist who graduated in 1954. Royal is also immortalized in the college’s Student Hall of Fame.
Hart said the process of offering African American History at Del Mar started about two years ago, following the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s approval of the course for community colleges.
We in history believe we should offer as many of those approved courses as we can. This is another step in that direction. Secondly, we consider this to be an important course that is long overdue.
Del Mar College empowers students to achieve their dreams. We offer quality programs, individual attention, outstanding instruction through faculty with real-world experience and affordable costs to credit and noncredit students in Corpus Christi and the South Texas Coastal Bend area. Nationally recognized while locally focused, we’re ranked in the top two percent of community colleges in the country granting associate degrees to Hispanic students (Community College Week). Del Mar College focuses on offering our students programs that match current or emerging career opportunities. Whether students are interested in the fine arts, sciences, business, occupational or technical areas, students get the education they need for the future they want at Del Mar College.
Historical documents are key to the course, Hart said. Students will examine letters, testimony from court cases, speeches, works of art, songs and other material they find on the internet, in the college’s library and through other sources.
The textbook, “Freedom on my Mind: A History of African Americans with Documents” is also part of the three credit-hour course, which satisfies the cultural and behavioral sciences component of Del Mar’s core curriculum.
Students will find the course especially relevant considering current issues facing the country, Welch said.
“There was a time in history when you didn’t see the contributions of women or minorities. This class is an opportunity for students to get a more in-depth study, right up to the present day.
“When they see that everyone is part of this mosaic, they’ll probably have a greater appreciation for all people in the country, like Native Americans, African Americans, Chinese Americans and others.”