Monday, February 17, 2014

"Private schools in Washington are like that. We don't integrate. We prefer not to."

Typing Class, Washington School for Secretaries
In the spring of 1961 two chapters of Iota Phi Lambda Sorority, a national organization of African-American business and professional women, conducted a survey to determine if African-Americans had equal access to business training in the Nation's Capital. 

Of the 12 business schools that participated in the study, six acknowledged placing racial restrictions on admissions, reported Jean M. White in The Washington Post ("Trade School Aid Sought for Negroes," May 27, 1961). The schools included Strayer Junior College of Finance, the Washington School for Secretaries, American Institute, Benjamin Franklin University and Stenotype Institute of Washington.

Benjamin Franklin University was the only school that did not respond to White's request for a comment.

A spokesman for the Washington School for Secretaries acknowledged that the school "has no Negro students."

Although Marvin Martilla of the Temple Secretarial School said "Negroes are admitted to all classes," White disputed his statement, reporting that Temple "only accepts Negroes on a segregated basis."

E.G. Purvis, president, of Strayer College explained his stance: "We just couldn't afford to take 40 colored students and have 60 or 90 white students leave."

"Lee Manahan, director of the American Institute, said Negroes are accepted in the keypunch and IBM departments but not as students in the secretarial or self-improvement courses," White reported.

Ruth Everett, director, the Stenotype Institute was unapologetic about the school's segregationist policies. "Private schools in Washington are like that. We don't integrate. We prefer not to," she told White.

In time, more schools began to desegregate as they felt pressure to generate higher numbers of students.