AnnotationsThis article is one woman’s reflection of her experiences at Spelman College during the late 1950s and early 1960s. It provides insight into the traditions of the institution and the daily lives of Black women attending Spelman during that time period. The author also speaks of the excellent mentoring that she received from both Black and White administrators at the institution.
Edelman describes the strict routine for Spelman women, including daily chapel attendance at 8:00 a.m., 5:00 p.m. curfews, dress requirements, and strict rules for chaperoned dating. While she initially resented the strict rules of the college, she ultimately came to view Spelman as a place that “gave me the latitude and safe space – one not defined by male or white folks’ expectations, habits of competition, or by the need to preen and prove myself to anyone beyond myself and God – to dream my dreams and to find and forge my own path” (119). She mentions learning more outside the classroom than within its walls, particularly during her participation in local civil rights activities.
She mentions three of her favorite mentors. Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays, a clergy member and the son of slave parents, who was an influential figure in the lives of students at Spelman, Morehouse, Atlanta University, Clark, and Morris Brown Colleges. Howard Zinn, a white man, provided Edelman with her first interracial discussion group which took place at the local YMCA . Dr. Zinn also accompanied his students to a sit-in in the “White” section of the state legislature. Dr. Zinn also nominated Edelman for the Merrill Scholarship, which she and another student won. This scholarship enabled Edelman to spend a year studying and traveling abroad and also introduced her to Charles Merrill, son of the founder of Merrill Lynch. He was another of her mentors.