To recognize the anniversary of the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, West Virginia University is holding a three-day tribute to pioneering African-American student athletes.
Brown v. Board was a watershed moment for civil rights in the U.S. The decision ruled that segregation in schools violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which protects citizens’ basic human rights.
David Fryson, vice president and head of the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at WVU, will be one of the speakers during the three-day tribute. He said that while Brown versus Board was an important step for civil rights, there were some negative effects. He said many African-American establishments and schools were closed because they were deemed inferior when he doesn’t believe they really were.
“And that led us to some of the economic blight and economic challenges that we have in black communities, because we lost our economic base in the name of integration,” he said.
But Fryson said one of the benefits of Brown versus Board was that as black athletes such Garrett Ford excelled at WVU, it showed others in the community what was possible.
“It meant a lot, it really did mean a lot. And for many people, it opened the door to even considering that perhaps a person from an under-represented background could actually matriculate at a place like West Virginia University,” Fryson said.
The tribute, which begins Thursday, April 23, with a welcome presentation at the Erickson Alumni Center in Morgantown, recognizes the pioneering role black athletes played in integrating universities.
Former football players such as Garett Ford, Major Harris and Pat White will be honored along with women’s track and field star Cheryl Nabors Phillips and women’s basketball standout Georgeann Wells, among many others.
Panel discussions with coaches and players will take place Friday at the Alumni Center. African-American student athletes will also be recognized Saturday before the annual Blue-Gold spring football game, which begins at 1 p.m.