Opinion: Response to Morris Library article
Dear Mr. Owens,
One of the foundations of librarianship is showing others how to find authoritative sources. In the case of the poster in the entryway of Morris Library that illustrated the historical timeline of the Library, we relied on a singular primary source for one of the captions. By not performing due diligence in researching the full story, we chose a word that connotes more than the facts allow. We regret using the word “fought” on the poster and do not want in any way to minimize what Louis Redding, students and others did to desegregate our campus.
We immediately removed the poster from the entryway after reading the article and will edit the timeline caption.
While in the university archives earlier this year, we viewed a letter dated Aug. 14, 1950, from Hugh Morris, in his role as chair of the Board of Trustees of the university, to acting President Allen Colburn, and heard, in a broader context, the story of Delaware’s court-ordered desegregation.
The letter referenced Parker et al. v. University of Delaware et al., in which the trustees of the university violated the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. Morris informed Colburn, “You will, of course, see to it that the law … is observed by the university both to the letter and in its spirit.”
But, as we now know through further research, until this ruling, the Board of Trustees was a barrier to the implementation of desegregation on campus. With this letter, Morris simply ordered compliance with the law. The correspondence between Morris and Louis Redding on behalf of students, noted in The Review article, was the communication conduit to and from the Board of Trustees at the university.
I am pleased to see the kind of research you put into The Review article and hope to have further conversations with you, the university archives and others on how we may shed more light on the desegregation story in our institutional history.
Trevor Dawes is the Vice Provost for Libraries and Museums and May Morris University Librarian at the university. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org