Tuesday May 24, 2005
By Marjorie O'Harra
Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson
In 1968, one of the goals of Dr. Elmo Stevenson, president of Southern Oregon College, in Ashland, Oregon, was to bring cultural diversity to the school-now known as Southern Oregon University.
Enrollment had hit an all-time high with over thirty-seven hundred students in 1967. But what bothered Dr. Stevenson was that only sixteen of them were African-American.
Delores Miller was one of those sixteen. Integration was still a contentious issue in some parts of the United States-racial tension often erupting into violence. And Ashland was known to many as an "all white" town.
Delores said that for the first time in her life, living in Ashland caused her to "think black." People were friendly, she said, but she felt she was always on display. When invited to speak to a group, she wondered, "Do they want to hear what I have to say, or are they just trying to prove they are liberal?"
Thirty-seven years have gone by and enrollment at Southern Oregon University has grown steadily. But, as the saying goes, "the more things change, the more they stay the same." Of the more than fifty-three hundred students enrolled for SOU's 2005 Winter term, only seventy-one were black. The guess is that Dr. Stevenson would not yet be satisfied.
Today's episode of As It Was was written by Marjorie O'Harra, the program engineer is Raymond Scully. I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org
"Aha, Delores, You Are A Negro," O'Harra, Marjorie, Medford Mail Tribune, July 17, 1968. Corcoran, Michael, SOU Registrar, phone conversation, March 29, 2005.