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Desegregation at Centre College: 1950's


Letters to Abakada. 1950. CC-2.3 Walter A. Groves Papers, Box 1, Folder 1950-A, Thomas A. Spragens Rare

Book Room and Archives, Centre College, Danville, KY.  

The correspondence between President Groves and Samuel Abakada, a 20-year-old prospective student in Nigeria, displays the direct effects of Kentucky’s Day Law that prohibited white and black students from attending the same school. Abakada wrote about how he had heard that Centre College had “interest” in African students. Although, at the time Centre College housed a handful of international students, Groves expressed in his response that “it would be impossible to hold out hope for either a scholarship or for entrance into Centre College of Kentucky”. He goes on to recommend Abakada write to the Institute of International Education that could have provided more information regarding abroad studying in the United States. Abakada graduated from Kings College which is one of the most respected private schools in Nigeria, especially at that time in history.

Correspondence Between Groves and Rankin, 1954, CC 2.3 Walter A. Groves Papers, Folder 1954-R,

Thomas A. Spragens Rare Book Room and Archives, Centre College Danville, KY.

The correspondence between Groves and Rankin, and alumnus of Centre, are incredibly important to this project. The few letters provide examples of the types of arguments that were made in resistance to the desegregation of the College. One of Rankins biggest concerns about integration was the higher probability of interracial marriages. Groves, on the other hand did not feel right about not providing black Americans an opportunity to study at Centre while there were other students from several countries attending. The letters also provide insight to the former president’s perspective on integration and how he used religion to guide his understanding.  


Primary Source Materials Access

To use materials in the Special Collections and Archives, contact Beth Morgan at for a research appointment. 24-hour notice is required