African-American History Brushes with History Documents

George Washington Carver’s 1923 visit

When I asked the communications office if I could have a
blog, it was largely because I come across items from time to time that are too
good not to share with the community. When I found these two letters a few weeks ago, buried in a stack of
crumbling files from the early 1920s, I knew instantly that these were


At first glance, the letters don’t appear that
important. A speaker writes a college
president to thank him for inviting him to speak on the campus, and the
president writes back to thank the speaker for sharing an hour with the
students. It seems like a routine
exchange of cordial letters. It’s
certainly how I read them as I quickly shuffled through them. But then I looked at the top of the
stationery and noticed “Tuskegee Institute.” And then I noticed the address on Snyder’s reply. Professor George W. Carver. George Washington Carver? Indeed.

The 1920s are sometimes referred to by southern historians
as the “nadir of American race relations.” Throughout that decade, African-Americans left the South in droves,
seeking better working opportunities and an escape from racial violence. Rigid segregation of most every aspect of
public life was the order of the day.

But here, we have a cordial exchange of letters between two
academic colleagues. Snyder addresses
Carver as “Professor Carver.” Carver
thanks Snyder for “the very warm reception” that he “shall not soon forget.” Carver has clearly addressed the Wofford
student body, most likely in a Chapel service in Leonard Auditorium. Snyder says that the students “felt greatly
instructed by the experience of the hour which you gave them.” Carver invites Snyder, if he ever were to be
in the area, to visit Tuskegee.

You’d never know, without recognizing names of persons or
institutions, that the correspondence represents an exchange of letters across
the color line.

We don’t really know what happened on that day in December
1923 – we don’t have the Old Gold and Black for that year, and the Journal is
silent. We don’t know what Carver said
to the students. No doubt being
addressed by an African-American scholar was an unusual experience for Wofford
professors and students alike.

But I’d like to think the experience was a positive one for
all parties.

Click on the letters for larger images. 


Voices from Holidays Past

The following articles and images are excerpts from the December 1914
and January 1915 issues of the Wofford College Journal, the college’s literary
magazine. Before the days of the Old Gold and Black, the Journal played the role of the campus
newspaper, and included editorials, stories about life on campus, and coverage
of athletic events.  Though many things have changed at Wofford
since 1914, students then as now enjoyed celebrating the holidays with friends,
family members, and fellow students. And
they were proud of their football team, too.

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Holidays are over, and we are looking forward eagerly to the 23rd,
when we shall board the Carolina Special for the Christmas Holidays.  Cartoon_4

Day was spent in various ways by the students. Many of them that live in neighboring towns went home and spent the day
with loved ones, but quite a number stayed on the campus. The latter group probably enjoyed the day most,
for there were various attractions in the city to amuse and entertain
them. But the one thing that interested
them most was the large and bounteous boxes from home. After the excitement of the day was over,
many groups gathered in secluded rooms and midnight feasts were in order
everywhere. Many happy hours were spent
in this way, after which all were ready for work again.

The holiday
was brightened up very much by the faces of several old Wofford men on the
campus. Some of them came to see the football
game and old college mates…

In 1914, the college most likely held classes on the Friday
and Saturday after Thanksgiving, so no student was able to travel too far from
campus for the holiday.

January 1915

On December
19 many bright and happy faces were seen to leave the campus and board the
trains for home. Some had to go far, but
all went “home,” and that meant for each joy and happiness. The Freshmen, especially, were
delighted. Many and old boy said that
their love for home and the dear home folks increased every year they were

But, as
every good thing is destined to end, so were the Christmas holidays, and on
January 5th Wofford opened her doors again and we had to go to
work. We are glad to see that most of
the boys were able to return to college after spending the holidays with their
parents and friends, but we are sorry to hear that a few of our best fellows
were not able to come back on account of financial and other reasons.

We are
quite sure, however, that those who have returned have resolved to begin the
new year aright and do the best work in the history of their college life. Examinations are upon us now, but we must
pass them creditably, since the faculty has given us such a long period of rest
and recreation.


The First Football Game – 118 years ago today

On this day 118 years ago, Wofford and Furman played the first intercollegiate football game in the state of South Carolina.  The account of the game, written by a Wofford student journalist in The Wofford College Journal and published in January 1890, is reprinted below.

On Saturday morning, December 14, 1889, the foot ball teams of Furman University and Wofford College played a very interesting and exciting game at the Encampment Grounds, Spartanburg, S.C.

The players were: Furman– Jones, Hammett, Young, Sneider, Padgett, Lott, Edwards, Little, Rodgers, and Tate.  Substitutes: Wilkins, Scott, and Sirrine.

Wofford– Bruce, Bearden, Clyde S., Bearden, Clyde H., Covington, Ellerbe, Flemming, Hayes, McRoy, Rankin, and Rouquie.  Substitutes: Dent and Calhoun.

The Wofford team wished association rules to govern the game, but Furman protesting, after some discussion, it was decided to play by the old rough-and-tumble rules.

Prof. J. H. Marshall umpired with great satisfaction to both sides.  The game lasted one hour and a half, with two fifteen minute rests, and was won with ease by Wofford, the score being five to one.

Furman’s team did some good playing, but it was evident from the first that the superior strength and skill of the Wofford boys would win the game.

Much of Wofford’s success was due to the instruction of Edwin Kerrison, Esq., a graduate of Yale, who kindly trained the team and acted as coacher during the contest.

The game was replete with good plays.  Bruce and Haynes did good work, while the goal kick of Bearden has scarcely been excelled on a foot ball field.

The visiting team left on the afternoon train wiser and sadder men, having learned though “they receive instruction in their heads, not feet” at Furman, a little education of the pedal extremities is requisite to make good foot ball players.

Another game will be played in Greenville Saturday, January 14.  The boys will go under the management of Prof. Marshall, whose efforts to establish athletic sports at Wofford deserve the greatest commendation.
— G. Rouquie.

In this photo, of the class of 1891, are at least three members of the team. Gabriel Rouquie, the author of this piece, is the first person on the left in the middle row.  W. W. Bruce is the fourth person on the middle row.  J. L. Flemming is directly behind Bruce. 

Alumni Sports

Basketball sweater

SweaterLast month, an alum’s basketball letter sweater came home.

Mrs. Ann Turner Bevalaque donated her father’s 1917 black and gold sweater to the archives.  Henry Grady Turner graduated from Wofford in 1917, and while at the college, he was a member of the Preston Literary Society and a three-year member of the basketball team.  The Bohemian, the college’s yearbook, said of his basketball skills, “there’s none to equal him.  His hands attract the ball as if they were magnets, then by some secret power, he thrusts the ball in the basket from any angle or distance.”  AllstateA forward, Turner was chosen by the college basketball coaches in the state for the All-State team in 1916-17.

After graduation, Turner joined Southern Bell, where he retired forty-three years later as a vice president specializing in marketing and merchandising activities.

Click on the images for larger versions.  The photo at left is Henry Grady Turner’s 1917 Bohemian photo. 


Welcome to the land of archives

I’ve been around Wofford for a long time for someone who’s not really that old. I came here in 1990 as a freshman, and with the exception of a few years away in graduate school, I never really left.

I started working in the college archives as a sophomore. When Herbert Hucks ’34 hired me, he assigned me to one of his indexing projects. I spent my first two years completing the index of The Journal, Wofford’s literary magazine that’s been continuously published since 1889. I also clipped a ton of newspaper articles about the College and South Carolina United Methodism along the way. But more importantly, I sat in the same room with Dr. Hucks for three academic years and three summers, and I absorbed as much of a lifetime of Wofford history from him as I could. My friend and colleague Dr. Carol Wilson of Wofford’s English department once called it my “inherited memory.”

I studied history and government, and found many of my professors were willing to share Wofford stories with me. Early on, I decided that the life of a historian appealed to me, and so after I graduated, I went on for a master’s degree in history at the University of Georgia.  I studied South Carolina history and began to figure out what it meant to be a professional historian. In 1996, I moved on to the University of South Carolina, where I continued to study American history. I took advantage of USC’s Public History program, which moves the study and practice of history outside of the classroom and into the wider audience of the museum, the historic site,
or the archives. In 1999, I returned to Wofford to succeed my mentor as college and United Methodist Conference archivist, and after 4 years of working and writing at the same time, I completed my doctorate in American history at USC.

In almost nine years of full-time work as the college’s
archivist, I’ve found some treasures, and I like to tell people that I learn something new about the institution almost every day. I find that I’m almost always on call, whether in the office with a patron, in the faculty dining room with a question from a faculty or administrative colleague about a long-past event, or even waiting in line at Gibbs Stadium for the Wofford-Richmond game a few weeks ago when I found myself talking with a Wofford fan about the first intercollegiate football game in South Carolina, played between Wofford and Furman on Saturday, Dec. 14, 1889. (Wofford won.) 

I want people to understand that archives are important not because they’re old, but because of what they tell us about the institution and the people who are part of it. Archives are more than just an accumulation of old papers, photos, and ledgers; archives are the raw materials of history.  Maintaining and sharing its archives allows the college to know its past, but most importantly, it ensures that the past has a future.  One of my main obligations is to collect today’s history so that the next generation will understand what the Wofford of the current generation was like. 

So, for however long this experiment in blogging from the Wofford Archives continues, I will be sharing the stories I learn and the things I uncover here on the top floor of the library.  Watch for more items with interesting stories as I discover them.  I hope there’ll be some images and even some sound files to share very soon. 

And, since I’m always on call, questions, comments, and suggestions are always welcome.