HIS 240 - Researching American History (Fall 2018)

The First Black Faculty Members at Rollins College

Eleanor Mitchell
Alzo Reddick

After the Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 which determined that segregation was no longer legal anywhere in the United States, the South predictably resisted the order to change traditional educational enrollment. (1) In many school districts, white protests erupted in violence and kept black children from entering the previously white- only schools. For example, in places like Little Rock, Arkansas, federal troops had to be called to put an end to campus violence in 1957. (2)  Amid such violent protests, not too many educational institutions were eager to hire black teachers or professors.

Rollins College itself was slow to integrate its faculty, only having around 25 black students as of 1969 and not hiring black faculty until 1971. (3)  Despite this late start, early black educators at Rollins openly praised their treatment on campus and claimed to have a pleasant introduction to campus culture and life. (4) Even though most educational institutions were openly opposing the hiring and equal treatment of black faculty in these decades, the teaching experiences and later achievements by Rollins’ first black professors Alzo Reddick and Eleanor Mitchell seem to indicate that comparably Rollins embraced and encouraged these pioneer faculty, resulting in positive career trajectories for both professors.

  1. Earl Warren and Supreme Court of The United States, U.S. Reports: Brown v. Board of Education (347 U.S. 483. 1953. https://www.loc.gov/item/usrep347483/
  2. The Library of Congress Exhibitions, “With an Even Hand:” Brown v. Board at Fifty, “The Aftermath,” (May 2004). https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/brown/brown-aftermath.html
  3. “Rollins Faculty Endorses 2 Of 7 Negro Requests,” Orlando Sentinel Metro (May 21st, 1969), Rollins College Archives and Special Collections.
  4. Alzo Reddick, interview with the student researcher, December 4th, 2018.

— Heather Borochaner

1 thought on “The First Black Faculty Members at Rollins College

  1. […] Eleanor Mitchell Thomas, hired in 1971, was the first Black faculty member at Rollins. She was an Orlando native with an advanced degree from Johns Hopkins University who came to Rollins by way of Prairie View A&M College in Texas. Eleanor taught political science courses with a strong international focus – International Relations, Developing Nations, and Comparative Government – and in a 1971 interview with The Sandspur, she explained that the main objective in all her courses was to “break down the stereotypes and preconceived notions we have in the country about the rest of the world.”[25] Mitchell also led a study abroad course to Africa in the Summer of 1972, traveling with students through Senegal, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Nigeria. This unique curriculum was intended to infuse diversity into the curriculum. After two years of teaching at Rollins, Mitchell would move on to launch a highly successful legal career, becoming the first Black woman to hold the position of Assistant General Counsel in Florida’s Supreme Court. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *