Times, Colors Change at St. X
Times, Colors Change at St. Xavier
The headline may be a little bit misleading. The school colors at St. Xavier High School have been blue and white forever. But as recently as 50 years ago, white was the only color of people found here.
In honor of Black History Month, the student diversity club Hands Across Campus convened a roundtable discussion on the integration of St. X. About 30 students, faculty, staff and administration gathered to talk about race in the early days on North Bend Road.
On the panel were former history teacher and current school archivist Karl Hauck, Fr. Fran Daly S.J. of the adult faith department and former teacher, coach and board member Myron Kilgore, the school’s first black faculty member. Alumni chaplain Fr. Denny Ahern S.J. (’56) provided some additional historical perspective.
“In 1960 so much of our history was based on the parish. The Irish people had their parish, the Italian people had theirs, the Germans had theirs, the African Americans had theirs and so on. The Church may have inadvertently been helping racism. I grew up in an Irish parish in Chicago, and I can promise you there were people in that parish who were glad we didn’t have Italians.
“But at that time our country was becoming more aware of civil rights. I think there were two things (driving St. X to integrate): One was to educate the African American community and help it assimilate better into the country the way different ethnic groups of whites had. The second was to evangelize. The African American community was traditionally Protestant and the Church wanted to reach out and maybe get some converts.”
Kilgore, who came to St. X in the 1964-65 academic year, the year Phil Cox and Michael Walker became the first two African Americans graduate of the school, said creating summer enrichment programs for inner-city students of any race helped broaden horizons, especially for a black community that didn’t have St. X on its radar.
“Once you’re stuck in one community, you’re limited,” he said. “Our summer programs back then opened up the city for people. It got people from downtown mixing with people from around town. Once you see more, you can dream. And once you dream, you can start to accomplish.”
“It was the younger Jesuit scholastics who pushed the progressive ideas on race more enthusiastically than anybody,” Hauck said. “It was a really difficult task, but an important one. And not just for St. X. I give (Cox and Walker) a lot of credit for sticking it out. I don’t think they had an easy time here. There was racism, I’m sorry to say, from a lot of corners.”
Fr. Daly, though, said the foundation laid in the early 1960s eventually led to a new perspective.
“When I came back to St. X in 1998 we were at a point where we realize we as a school would be enriched by diversity, not the other way around where we thought we would be enriching other people,” he said. “We’ve kept that attitude, which will keep making St. X a diverse school a high priority.”
Hands Across Campus will offer a similar discussion next week led by alumni of color from the 1960s, '70s and '80s.