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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Presentation features first black women at Tech

By Catherine Doss

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 24 - March 19, 1998

They enrolled 32 years ago. Six black women. The first class of African-American females at Virginia Tech. Back in those days, the Confederate flag was an icon at football games, and "Dixie" played by the Highty Tighties was revered almost as much as the national anthem.
At that time, Rockefeller Foundation grants for black students and federal legislation were encouraging integration of traditionally white schools such as Virginia Tech. The six women, Linda Adams, Jacqueline Butler, Linda Edmonds, Fredi Hairston, Marguerite Harper, and Chiquita Hudson were among approximately 8,500 white men, several hundred white women, and 20 black men enrolled at the university.
A multimedia performance Thursday, March 19 will trace the academic and cultural experiences of Virginia Tech's early black women faculty and staff members and students, and will feature live presentations by Linda Edmonds (Turner), now assistant vice president of marketing at Dean College in Massachusetts, and Johnnie Miles, an early black woman faculty member in the (then) College of Education. "The Voices of the First Black Women at Virginia Tech" is part of the university's 125th anniversary events and is sponsored by the Women's Center.
"Voices" is based on the Black Women at Virginia Tech History Project, initiated by Elaine Carter, a doctoral student at Virginia Tech in Public Administration and Policy. The multi-phase project involves identifying the first black women--students, faculty and staff members--to enter the university, the collection of their narratives of that entry experience, and the design and execution of events to enhance communication, understanding and relationships within the university's culturally diverse community.
Much of the oral history phase of the project has been completed, and excerpts of interviews with some of the women will be featured in the "Voices" presentation along with slides and other visual elements.
"It's amazing the number of things that took place on campus back then that involved race issues," said Carol Burch-Brown, who is coordinating the technical end of the presentation, which also features Carter narrating the script and Nikki Giovanni, professor of English, introducing the show. The script was written by Su Clauson-Wicker, and photographs were collected and shot by senior Amanda Serra. Paul Lancaster served as audio engineer.
Today 495 black women are taking classes at Virginia Tech. The total black student enrollment is 1,064, or about 4.3 percent of the university's total.
The show begins at 7:30 p.m. in Squires Colonial Hall, and will be followed by a reception at the Black Cultural Center.
The Black Women at Virginia Tech History Project may be accessed at http://scholar2.lib.vt.edu/spec/bwhp/bwhproj.htm.