Mary Carroll and BELONging
Mary Carroll Robertson (nee Mary Carroll) arrived at Elon in fall 1977 and won election as Homecoming Queen in 1979. The practice of naming a Homecoming Court continues, but it was in full-swing in the 1970s, and Carroll’s election was a high honor. Some white students, however, booed Carroll when she was crowned. Adding to the injury, the white editors of the yearbook did not place the customary Homecoming spread in the 1980 yearbook. The school’s information officer explained that the students working on the yearbook had simply missed a deadline. Two African American football players, James Strickland and Alonzo Craig, nonetheless burned their yearbooks in protest. Scores of other Black students followed their example. Not until 2019 did any representatives of Elon attempt to make amends.
Andrew Morgan: Paternalism and Presence
Andrew Morgan was among the earliest African Americans employed by Elon College. He began working at Elon in 1926 as the campus maintenance worker and worked continuously for the school until his death in 1964. An obituary in the Alumni News mourned the passing of “one of the oldest and best-loved employees of Elon College,” even though the school denied admission to black students until the last year of Morgan’s life. Snapshots from Morgan’s career thus present the opportunity to explore what it meant to be among Elon’s the “best-loved” staff members in the age of Jim Crow.
William A. Harper graduated from Elon in 1899 and, after earning a Master’s Degree from Yale, came back to join the faculty in 1905 (Latin and Religion). He was named Dean in 1908 and Elon’s fourth President in 1911, a position he held for 20 years. As president, Harper helped Elon rally from a devastating fire in 1923, advocated for education, and wrote prolifically on Christian ethics. He also served as onetime chairman of the “Board of Control” for Elon’s sister school, all-Black Franklinton College and led a posse that arrested John Jeffries on suspicion of rape in 1920, facilitating Jeffries’ unlawful lynching hours later. In 2020, an alumna started an online petition to change the name of Harper Hall, which reached fruition in July of that year. Harpers’ complex career invites readers to grapple with the meaning of early-twentieth-century white progressivism, which coexisted with white terror and segregation.