NEWBERRY — Newberry College students and community members learned through Dr. William E. Dufford that diversity was not just an issue of the past, but continues to be a nationwide struggle to this very day.
Because of his experiences of integrating two high schools in Sumter, Dufford was the inspiration behind the college’s first Dufford Diversity Week.
Dufford was born and raised in Newberry, earning his bachelor of science in math and science from Newberry College in 1949. He earned his doctorate from the University of Florida in 1967. In the fall of 1969, Dufford was hired by the Sumter school district to integrate the high schools in Sumter.
Dufford worked with Lincoln High School principal Errol Vaughn to make it happen, sharing his past and lessons with Newberry College students and the community during the week.
Activities were hosted throughout the week of Oct. 22 through Oct. 25, including a film viewing of Prom Night in Mississippi, followed by a facilitated discussion with Jennifer Morrison, and Marilyn Seymour at Newberry College.
Shannon Faulkner, the first female cadet to enter the Citadel, spoke to a crowd gathered at the Newberry Opera House that week.
Continuing with the theme of diversity, a panel discussion — with the topic of Integration in South Carolina: The Struggle Continues — was held on campus with Dufford and other guests. The week concluded with a minority business luncheon, with the guest speaker being Bennie Bennett, Newberry County school superintendent.
Peggy Winder, director of diversity education at Newberry, said the week’s events were an effort to help with the current Speer Street project. Winder said Dufford’s love of education and diversity were discussed, which led them to him.
Winder said he generously agreed to donate funds to the Speer Street project, also donating much of his memorabilia on diversity he has from his past experiences.
“In order to preserve all of his memorabilia on diversity, we thought it would be a good idea to name a room at Speer Street after him,” Winder said.
The room, to be named the Dufford Diversity Lab, will be in the old media center of the Speer Street school and will be used for social justice activities and classes, according to Jennifer Morrison, education department chair at Newberry.
Morrison said the room will showcase Dufford’s memorabilia on integration in South Carolina, including documents and photographs. Similar to the learning lab currently in the education building on campus, Morrison said the Dufford Diversity Lab will have a high level of technology present.
Winder said she believed the week was good for students, showing them that not only was diversity a problem in the past, but it still continues all over the world today.
“It was an awesome week, as we had the chance to look at diversity not only on our campus, but nationwide,” Winder said.
Bennett explained in his luncheon at the end of the week how important it was to surround yourself with those in diverse backgrounds, which he believes will help a person better succeed.
With the panel discussion held on campus, Morrison said the turnout was great, including visitors from The State news, and even visitors from the University of South Carolina. Questions were asked by the audience to Dufford about how comfortable students were versus the adults during the integration process.
Dufford explained that although the kids were able to figure out how to get along with one another, the adults were really the ones that had the most difficulty.
Marshall Maddy with the communications department at Newberry College said he is currently working on a video documenting Dufford’s “evolution,” as he calls it, from believing in segregation to integrating schools in South Carolina.
“The documentary will mostly concentrate on what he did to integrate the Sumter and York districts,” Maddy said.
Maddy said he has interviewed Allen Johnson, the student body president for the white school at the time, and is also hoping to find the president from the other school before integration began.
Other students have been interviewed as well, according to Maddy. Another hope is to reach the school’s newspaper editor who wrote editorials at the time of the integration process.
The video is being created to show at the second Dufford Diversity Week, which is planned to take place each year, the first Tuesday after the fall break for students.
“All of the footage will be put into the lab,” Maddy said.
If the documentary is complete, the goal is to show it at the opening of the dedication of Speer Street School.
“The college could not have had this successful week of activities without the tremendous support of Bill Dufford. We were so happy to partner with the Opera House for the keynote event,” said Scott Joyner, vice president of institutional advancement.
Elyssa Parnell can be reached at 803-276-0625, ext. 108 or at email@example.com.