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Sewanee Controversy Papers

Call Number: RG 186

Scope and Contents

The Papers include the official documents surrounding the controversy, as well as personal correspondence and collected material. The material dates primarily from 1952 to 1954, although there is some material from before and after that timeframe. The collection provides valuable documentation of a specific instance of racial discrimination in the American South during the early 1950s.

Series I contains relevant official documents about the events including Proceedings and Reports of the Board of Trustees and Board of Regents, faculty responses, and other statements. It also includes documents that refer to the wider discussion of the controversy, including statements of support from universities and students, discussions of the issue, miscellaneous notes, and background. The papers address the controversy of 1952-1953 but also include papers about the following school year, including remarks by students. It also includes a few historical accounts, including a thorough history called the "Sewanee Story."

Series II contains relevant correspondence about the Sewanee events. The bulk of the correspondence was written to and from Dean F. Craighill Brown on behalf of the faculty. Most are letters of support. The response to some of the letters to Brown/faculty were written by other members of the faculty, notably R. Lansing Hicks (who was later on the faculty at Berkeley Divinity School and Yale Divinity School and from whom these papers were received by the Library.) Where possible and logical, the correspondence of specific individuals has been sorted out of this collection, including correspondence of Bishop R. Bland Mitchell, Morgan Cartledge Williams (a trustee), Vice-Chancellor McCrady, C.F. Peniman, and Bishop Edwin Penick. The responses of Members of the Board of Trustees in June and July of 1952 are separated out from the rest of the correspondence to Dean Brown. Series II also contains the correspondence of Professors R.Lansing Hicks, Richard Hooker Wilmer, and. Thomas Govan, a professor of History at Sewanee. This series also contains letters of student support and correspondence about media coverage of the events.

Series III contains Collected Material from a variety of sources. Most of the articles/clippings were collected by R.Lansing Hicks and Dean F. Craighill Brown. They are in chronological order and span from 1950-1954. There are also complete journals and publications from the same time span, including the Episcopal Church News, The Living Church, The Sewanee Alumni News, and The Theo-log. There is also a large article from the New Oxford Review about Bishop Pike from 1976.


  • 1867-1988

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of R. Lansing Hicks.


  1. I. Documents, 1867-1988
  2. II. Correspondence, 1949-1954
  3. III. Collected Material, 1950-1976


2 Linear Feet (4 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The Sewanee Controversy Papers include the official documents surrounding the event, as well as personal correspondence and collected material. From 1952 to 1954 there was great controversy over the admission policies of the School of Theology at the University of the South at Sewanee, an Episcopal Seminary. On June 6, 1952, the Board of Trustees rejected a request by the Synod of the Fourth Province to "open the existing seminaries in the South to students of all races." The Board of Trustees concluded that "the admission of Negroes, or men of any other inadvisable." This resolution sparked a flurry of responses, most notably the resignation of eight faculty members in protest. In June 1953, the Board of Trustees voted to change its policy.

Biographical / Historical

1950, Jan 25
Francis Craighill Brown installed as Dean of the School of Theology at the University of the South (Sewanee)
1952, June
Sewanee Board of Trustees rejects proposal to admit African American students. Eight faculty members protest, threatening to resign by June, 1953, unless the decision isoverturned.
1952, November
The eight faculty members resign, effective June, 1953.
1953, January
Bishop Daindridge is elected Sewanee's new dean, 4 other new faculty members are appointed
1953, February
Rev. Dr. James Pike declines to speak at Sewanee's graduation ceremony because of its admission policies.
1953, June
Board of Trustees votes to disregard race in considering applicants. First African-American student is admitted at Sewanee.
Guide to the Sewanee Controversy Papers
Compiled by Sarah Scherschligt and Martha Lund Smalley
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Divinity Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Yale Divinity Library Repository

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