Esther Popel Shaw's Letter to Mr. Spahr

Esther Popel Shaw Discusses Racial Issues on Campus

This letter, dated September 5, 1945, was written by Esther Popel Shaw, the first African American female graduate of Dickinson College 1919, to Mr. Boyd Lee Spahr of the Board of Trustees. Writing from her post at the National Association of College Women, Esther Popel Shaw defends herself and her race against Spahr's "apparent lack of awareness of what constitutes acceptable designations when racial references are involved" as well as racial injustice when it comes to college housing for African American students. She demands that the College respond to this blatant racism when it comes to college admissions and housing, as well as the terms the College faculty uses when referring to people of African American descent. "'Since it is my understanding that Negro students are not welcome as dormitory residents at Dickinson and since those I might recommend are Negroes I do not choose to subject them to the humiliation of refusal.' The significant fact is that I never received from the college any denial of that statement ,nor any attempt to set me straight on the subject."  26 years after Dickinson graduated its first African American female student, the college continued to deal with changing attitudes towards minorities.