Tales of Travail and Triumph

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Nzengu and Nzongola-Ntalaja

Davidson’s first non-white students, (l-r) Congolese natives Nzengu and Nzongola-Ntalaja, returned to campus for the integration celebration.

Davidson celebrates 50 years of integration.

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By Bill Giduz

A 50th anniversary celebration of integration during Homecoming Weekend illuminated how far Davidson has come in accommodating students of color, and reminded attendants the job is not completely done.

About 100 alumni and guests enjoyed a banquet as the centerpiece of an itinerary of workshops, reflections, and the announcement of two gifts that pushed the new Emergence Scholarship of The Davidson Trust above the $130,000 mark required for it to be activated. The fund will assist a Davidson student with financial need from an historically underrepresented population at Davidson.

Guests included the first two alumni students of color ever enrolled at the college— Congolese natives Dr. Benoit Nzengu ’66 and Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja ’67.

One of the first African American students, Leslie Brown ’68, gave a keynote talk about his travails and triumphs at Davidson. Brown concluded, “I continue to be asked whether the Davidson experience was worth it…. I eventually concluded that the answer is ‘Yes.’ I left Davidson well educated as a critical, independent thinker, with solid analytical skills and abilities, excellent oral communication and writing skills, discernible self-confidence, and a commitment to service. And, as I say, ‘That’s what a liberal arts education is all about!’”

The final speaker, senior English major Kaneisha Gaston, was hailed for holding another distinction in the history of minorities at Davidson. Whereas many children of local white families have graduated from Davidson, at Commencement 2013 Gaston will become the first African American graduate from the Town of Davidson. Gaston thanked members of her extended family in attendance for supporting her education, and spoke about sharing the same ambivalent feelings of struggle and pride as students of color from previous generations.

The evening concluded with a film, Always Part of the Fabric, produced by the college archives office, which tells the history of the college and persons of color.

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