Finally! Alabama ends segregated sororities after public shaming

Alabama moves to integrate its Greek system, in a surprisingly overdue move. Where was the administration before?

Topics: Race, University of Alabama, Segregation, Sororities, greek life, Alabama, College, ,

Finally! Alabama ends segregated sororities after public shamingStudents and faculty members of the Univ. of Alabama march across the campus to oppose racial segregation among its Greek-letter social organizations (Credit: AP/Dave Martin)

Today in news you might have expected to read 50 years ago: The University of Alabama is updating its sorority system to pave the way for African-American women to join its traditionally all white sisterhoods.

The surprisingly long overdue move comes one week after the school’s newspaper, the Crimson White, told the explosive tale of a promising black student who “didn’t receive a bid from any of the 16 Panhellenic sororities during formal recruitment.” In the feature, writers Abbey Crain and Matt Ford quoted a sorority member who said her chapter, Alpha Gamma Delta, had declined to even take a vote on the girl. And a Tri Delta member said that other houses “wanted to pledge the recruit and were also hindered by alumnae members.” And a Pi Beta Phi student attested that “alumnae threatened to cut financial support if the recruit were to pledge.” At the time, sorority higher-ups denied charges of bias, vaguely alluding to the secretive decision-making process that goes into recruitment.

You Might Also Like

But in a video message released Tuesday, University president Dr. Judy Bonner admitted that “Our Greek system remains segregated and chapter members admit that during the recruitment process that ended a few weeks ago, decisions were made based on race.” In her message, Bonner evoked the school’s racially charged history, recalling how back in 1963, “Vivian Malone and James Hood were met by Governor George Wallace as they attempted to enroll in classes at the University of Alabama,” an incident that ended with the “peaceful integration” of the school. Now, she says, “The University of Alabama is taking the unprecedented step of opening up the continuous open bidding process to every student, to every sorority on our campus.”

It’s certainly a welcome step, though it does raise several questions of how the old practice was able to endure as long as it did. How glaringly blind an eye did school administration have to turn to permit such blatant division? Yet Alabama isn’t the only academic environment in which segregation has stubbornly persisted. In a blog post last year, Emily Domrose wrote about “the divisions between the Black Greek system and the White Greek system” and the “unspoken” pressures on students to not cross racial lines. And it’s not just colleges. This past spring, Georgia’s Wilcox County High School made national headlines when it held its very first racially integrated prom.

The only recently rectified failure of integration at the University of Alabama was clearly made possible by the active, attentive dedication of certain members of the community determined to maintain the status quo. But it was also a result of simple unquestioning, long-standing complacency. The world doesn’t get better all by itself simply by virtue of the passage of time. We have to make it get better, and never, ever stop making it better. At the time of the Wilcox prom, a parent summed it up for the New York Times. “The adults should have done this many, many moons ago,” she said, “but it had to be the kids.”

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...