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Brown-Tougaloo Exchange records

Historical note

The relationship between Tougaloo College (an historically African-American college called Tougaloo Southern Christian College from 1954 until 1962) in Jackson, Mississippi, and Brown University was initiated by two Tougaloo trustees with connections to Providence. Rev. Lawrence Durgin, minister of the Broadway Congregational Church in New York (and former minister of the Central Congregational Church in Providence) and Irving Fain, a Providence businessman with a strong social conscience, were members of the Tougaloo Board of Trustees when they appealed to Brown President Barnaby Keeney for assistance with Tougaloo’s fundraising. With help from Brown’s Director of Development, Daniel Earle, planning was begun in 1963 to address Tougaloo’s financial deficit through stronger alumni and foundation relations.

This joint planning process began during the Civil Rights Movement—which was particularly active in the Jackson area—and it drew Brown into a greater than anticipated involvement with the only integrated college of the day in Mississippi. In addition to its financial problems Tougaloo College was facing social and political censure for its active resistance to segregation under the leadership of A. Daniel Beittel. The Jackson press had nicknamed it the “cancer college” because it admitted white students. In 1963 several Tougaloo students had been beaten for trying to sit at the lunch counter of a local Woolworth’s. When an integrated group from the college attended an event on the University of Mississippi campus in 1965, “Ole Miss” students demonstrated. The State of Mississippi, moreover, was moving to revoke Tougaloo College’s charter because, in the words of then-Lt. Governor Carroll Gartin, it was a haven for “queers, quacks, quirks, political agitators and possibly some communists” (Jackson Daily News, 14 Apr. 1964; Box 5, folder 6).

The idea of a deepening relationship between Tougaloo and Brown was further fueled in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy’s charge to educators to commit themselves to cultivating opportunities for black students. A cooperative arrangement on the institutional level appeared to be the way to address both Tougaloo’s financial straits and Kennedy’s mandate. Brown Development Officer Paul Davis’ brief, “An Overview: A Proposed Development Program for Tougaloo College” (Box 23, Folder 9), presented to the Development Committee of Tougaloo’s Board of Trustees in December 1963, summarized the philosophical and practical basis for the relationship between the two colleges and became the blueprint for the program.

Changes ensued. Foundational funding on this scale demanded a reexamination of Tougaloo’s mission, and one effect of this process was a name change from Tougaloo Southern Christian College to Tougaloo College. Tougaloo Southern Christian College had been founded (as Tougaloo University) in the 19th century by the American Missionary Association of the United Church of Christ, and although the A.M.A. continued to support the College into the 20th century its financial resources were limited. In order to broaden the college’s development appeal, Tougaloo’s Executive Board modified the official name by dropping “Southern Christian.”

Another big change came with the retirement of Tougaloo President Beittel in 1964. According to Harold Pfautz, who had been named Director of the Exchange Program, the College was at a crossroad: “…[S]hould Tougaloo emphasize primarily its … image in the black community and encourage active involvement of its students in the Civil Rights movement or should it eschew such a major thrust and emphasize the development of a first-rate liberal arts and sciences curriculum and faculty with a view to maximizing the ability of Tougaloo graduates to take advantage of the increasing occupational opportunities as well as to compete successfully for entrance into professional and graduate schools?” (“Draft--History of the Brown-Tougaloo Cooperative Program” p. 20-21; Box 3, folders 1 and 2) Dr. Beittel was seen as a civil rights activist and, as such, a possible impediment to outside funding for institutional development, and his resignation was formally requested by the Tougaloo Board of Directors. Whether the Board acted at another’s behest remains unconfirmed, but Brown President Barnaby Keeney, the Ford Foundation and Mississippi’s State Sovereignty Commission have all been considered agents of this change.

Some press reports reflected the complex uneasiness that greeted the announcement of the exchange program. The New York Herald Tribune headline read: “Brown U. Adopts Southern Academic Waif” (18 May 1964) and proceeded to describe the relationship as “an evolutionary fulfillment for the college founded 200 years ago by John Nicholas Brown [sic] with money he and other contributors had earned—much of it from the slaves, sugar and rum ‘Triangle Trade.’” Other news outlets maintained this demeaning slant by often referring to Tougaloo in their headlines not by name but as a “small” or “tiny Negro college” under the wing of its “Big Brother” Brown University.

A controversial facet of the Exchange Program was the Brown-Tougaloo Language Project (1965-1969) whose purpose was to “emphasize the positive factors of standard dialect acquisition and language enrichment” (Final report, p. 3; Box 19, folders 1 through 5). Developed by faculty at both colleges and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Project aimed to teach speakers of the local “nonstandard dialect” a second dialect that would serve to improve their professional and educational prospects. Again, the national press reflected a general ambivalence toward the effort through headlines such as the New York Herald Tribune’s: “English as a Foreign Tongue in South” (5 Apr. 1965; Box 5, folder 6). The Project was hampered by administrative and evaluation difficulties and its instructional package was used by only one other school, Southern University. When W. Nelson Francis, Project Director and Brown professor of linguistics, wrote his final report to the Rockefeller Foundation in July 1970, the Project had effectively ended.

The Brown-Tougaloo Exchange was suspended from 1973 until 1980 and is currently known as the Brown University-Tougaloo College Partnership.