This research started with a single document:
“November 5, 1934
Bursar U. H. Smith
My Dear Mr. Smith:
The following colored students – Mildred Ann Clift, Nathaniel Sayles – are required to do their Supervised Teaching in the high school in Indianapolis because we do not have a colored high school here. Formerly we did this work in the Banneker School here but this year the seventh and eighth grades have been eliminated in that school. It is no longer possible to do the Supervised Teaching there.
I should be glad to recommend that these persons have their transportation paid at the regular railroad fare of $2.02 each way or $4.04 for the round trip instead of at the bus rate of $2.50 for the round trip. This transportation is paid from the Supervised Teaching Fund.
Both of these students are working their way through the University and it is a hardship for them to go to Indianapolis for their Practice Teaching due to the fact that they will loose [lose] time at their jobs here and there will be an additional expense at Indianapolis.
I shall be glad to have your opinion as to the transportation charge.
Very truly yours
H. L. Smith, Dean”
At the beginning of Fall semester, my supervisor and Indiana University Archive’s Outreach and Public Services Archivist, Carrie Schwier handed me a copy of the document above. She knew that I had a background studying education and thought that this could potentially lead to a small blog post. We were both interested in what happened to Mildred and Nathaniel as they student taught in Indianapolis.
In addition to other projects I was working on, I started using each of my archives shifts to pull boxes from former President William Lowe Bryan’s Office Correspondence collection, IU Alumni Records, and Indiana Daily Student articles to search for more. Throughout my four months of research, I never found out if Indiana University helped these students with transportation costs. However, I did find the names of five other Black students that taught at Crispus Attucks as well as an additional student, Mildred Clift’s brother Virgil, who all had remarkable stories from their time at IU and their professional and personal pursuits.
The upcoming blog posts in this three part series will share the stories of the following Indiana University Bloomington alumni:
Mildred Ann Clift
Nathaniel Louis Sayles
Virgil Alfred Clift
George Wesley Wade
Ernest Franklin Stevenson
George Pickett Porter
Evelyn Marshall White
Wilbert Eugene Miller
What you’ll see in each of these individuals is incredible determination and resilience. Despite the hardships of earning degrees during the Great Depression amidst high racial injustice, they moved onward and upward to accomplish their goals and become prominent scholars, educators, and change makers.
This research will also soon be featured in a poster in the west display case of the Herman B Wells Library lobby.