Scrapbooks and Social Awareness: A Self-Curated History of the Oberlin YWCA

Part 1: Domestic Arts     |     Part 2: Student-Faculty Discussions
Part 3: Career Symposia     |     Part 4: Interracial Relations

Introduction     |     Document 8: Petition Against Poll Tax     |     Document 9: Survey from National YWCA     |     Document 10: Brochure Diversity    |     Document 11: Interracial Committees     |     Document 12: Glee Club Incident

Document 12: Glee Club Incident

Title: Glee Club Incident

Author: unknown

Date: 1946-1947

Document Type: Handwritten Document

Location: YWCA Annual Reports 1945/46-1950/51, Series II, Box 6, Folder 4, O. C. A.



This document is a second-hand account of racial discrimination within Oberlin’s Glee Club. Members of YWCA protested the exclusion of a Black student, Yolanda Brown, from touring with Glee Club. The author attributed the YW members’ stance to their recent adoption of the national Interracial Charter and Oberlin “Interracial Report” (See Document 11).

The Oberlin YWCA President reported the Glee Club incident to National YWCA in their 1946-47 annual report: “We are trying to make our interracial charter a working, living policy… The Glee Club incident, where six members of the Women’s Glee Club, who were also members of the YWCA cabinet, protests the racial practices of the Glee Club, stemmed from the conviction stated in this part of the purpose.”

Original                       Both                    Transcription



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I feel I must tell you something about the recent action of some of the YWCA cabinet members because there are misconceptions of it current on campus, + I would like you to have my story to add to anything else you hear, Also, I feel I must confess publicly that I stood with them [added in pen: you have a right to know my part in all this.]

[Illegible cross-out] This concerns the case of Yolanda Brown,[1] Negro who auditioned for Glee Club. Before the Committee, old members got into a consideration of her voice they faced the problem of could she go along with the Glee Club on the Kentucky tour + decided she couldn’t, so decided simply to [illegible cross-out] leave a decision [illegible] + not invite her to the first meeting of the Glee Club for practice – The only way we knew of this was that the pres. Of Glee Club went to [Lynn Poindexter?][2] [added in pen: another Negro col. Member] to talk it over with her + ask her to explain to Yolanda all that had gone on. Both of them came to me + explained the matter + Becky was there at the time. So she + Mimi [Schiveser?][3] both GC members went to Glee Club that p.m. + urged the girls to change their minds – They got to the point of saying they would invite Y. if she would agree not to go on the trip and relayed that message to her. She was quite disgusted with the whole procedure + refused to join Glee Club under any circumstances + then, ironic fact, the GC looked up her grades + found she was excluded on that score.

But the five Glee Club members who are also Y. Cabinet members felt they must make an even stronger protest against an organization which would conduct activities which excluded members in this fashion. So they framed a statement which they read to the Glee Club last Monday. They called in Y Cabinet on Monday afternoon, and [to] ask their advice – was this the right thing to do in line with the interracial [illegible cross-out] statement which they adopted as an organization + which personally binds them. (Read [state?]). Cabinet discussed it + approved – tho the five made it clear that they would felt they were taking personal action + wanted the assurance of a group. They presented their statement signed by 5___ [sic] and four others who felt this strongly enough to join them on it [added in pen: read statement]

This brot [brought] forth a heated discussion in Glee Club, and the formation of a Committee to make a recommendation to glee Club at an early meeting–

[The following is written in pen] I want to leave the issues clear-

The girls were not simply trying to right an injustice to another cabinet member- After she was proved to be ineligible the question remained: Should any organization plan events in which all races cannot participate when we are an interracial college?

These girls had to act because of [sic] the one hand they were trying to write a policy to suggest to the college- on the other, belonging to an organization that appealed to them to deny the things they were writing.

They turned to the YWCA because there, clearly stated, was what several of them helped vote last spring as a National YWCA policy, to which they all voted to uphold after we came home from convention.

They could not take the world impossible when applied to arrangements for interracial trips, because they saw the YWCA plan a natl [national] convention for 3000 people [inserted above the line: of many races] to eat + live + work together for a week in Atlantic City last spring. So the YWCA is very much a part of their action, but they are working independently as individuals –

But how does this leave these girls? Here is where it seems to me I want to speak to you about this, because here is where the creative interesting part of this work comes – to see how young people tackle problems and how they grow in the process –

One said, “Oh it is so much easier to be wishy washy, but its [sic] a part of becoming mature to take your place on one side or the other” –

Another, Becky, “I feel strong inside now that I’ve stated my convictions on this – I’m beginning to believe that this is the kind of strength that comes out through your voice. You never will have be a good singer if you don’t have something deep + convincing down inside of you.”

And Jinks – “I feel completely flattened out about this whole affair. Oberlin has not lived up to my expectations, or the promise I felt it held. I intend to leave after this year.”

And its [sic] simply amazing how many girls are on your side when you get up the courage to say what you believe. They seem to be waiting just for leadership.

This whole thing has given me new light on racial policy, report of the racial Committee – I am so convinced that those who are believing + working for anything they hold to be true, need to have it stated for themselves somewhere – These girls were confronted with the thing they had voted, and couldn’t avoid it. You may disagree with their action, but can you disagree with this that all of us need to be reminded of what in our highest moments we hold to be true?

I hold no brief for the thing the way it now stands, + I believe members of the Committee are not satisfied with it now – but I believe in the idea behind it, for I’ve seen it work out in the Y.W.C.A. and I think it holds many more advantages than disadvantages –

I think we’ll never get too far working only as the Y on this. I should like to see a college committee on this – faculty, trustees, students and all working together on trying to state where we really stand on this racial issue –

[1] Yolanda Brown Wicks (d. 2011) graduated from Oberlin in 1949 (In Memoriam Class of 1949, Oberlin College, accessed 27 July 2016, Source).

[2] Erlynne Poindextder was the Phyllis Wheatley Committee Chairmen Spring 1945.

[3] Possibly Edith Schweser, YWCA Secretary of that year.