Document 3: Poem titled, “A Conversation with the Secretary of Oberlin College”

Author: likely Mary Church Terrell

Date: unknown

Location: Mary Church Terrell: Professional Life binder, O. C. A.

Document Type: Typed Document


This typed document is undated and unsigned. Given its Mary Church Terrell’s history with Secretary George M. Jones concerning dormitory segregation (see Document 2), it can be assumed that this poem is written about him, probably around 1914.1


A Conversation with the Secretary of Oberlin College.

Too many colored Students”, [sic] the secretary said,

“Why three percent is far too large”, [sic]

And then he shook his head.

It grieves the secretary

That Oberlin should force

White students to associate

With Colored ones, of course.

“Traditions and old customs,

All these I would defy,

No dark-skinned race of any kind

To me need ere apply.

To Japanese and Negro

My door is shut quite fast;

East Indians, too, and Chinamen

From my house I would cast.

My door is shut quite fast,

We’ll educate the Negro/ [sic]

That is our only task,

To let him eat with our white youth

Is more than he should ask.

We’ll teach him in our classes,

That’s all we’re bound to do,

But he’ll get no social training.

We’ll ostracize him, too.

And if a Colored person

Should try to be my friend,

I’d tell him ‘I’m [sic] a white man, stop,

And ne’eer would I unbend.

Transcribed by Natalia Shevin

1 George M. Jones (1870-1948), Secretary of Oberlin College from 1901 to 1938.