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1930s Segregated Student Teaching and the IU Alumni Who Persevered (Part 3 of 3)

This blog post is a continuation of a three part series covering the research process and stories related to 8 Black Indiana University Bloomington alumni who were required to travel from Bloomington to Indianapolis to complete their required student teaching at the then segregated Crispus Attucks High School. This is the final post for the three part series (see the previous posts here.)

Black and white headshot of Mildred Clift with braids and wearing pearls

Mildred Ann Clift, 1914-2015

BA History, ’35; MS Education ’39; Certificate in Speech Pathology

Mildred Clift grew up in Princeton, Indiana and enrolled at IU in 1931 at the young age of 16, following in her brother Virgil’s footsteps the year prior. Mildred originally lived with a family on the west side of Bloomington before she moved into the Dargan House, which was segregated housing for IU women. While at IU, Mildred received a scholarship from Sigma Gamma Rho and became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

(Photo Credit: Jeffersonville Township Public Library – 1951 Echo Taylor High School Yearbook)

Mildred graduated from IU in 1935 with a degree in history and then became a teacher in Illinois at an integrated one-room schoolhouse and high school. She later returned to Indiana and taught at the segregated Taylor School in Jeffersonville. Mildred returned to IU to earn a Master’s of Education and a certificate in Speech Pathology before going on to establish a speech and hearing program in the Jeffersonville school district in 1952. In 2010, Mildred was interviewed for the IU Bicentennial Oral History Project, where she shared about her IU experience.

It was very, very difficult to receive a teaching position, especially if you were a minority because schools were integrated for pupils but not for minority teachers. And I enjoyed teaching in this one-room school…. I taught in high school, Taylor School, and it was a small school. I knew the names of all of my pupils. I knew their mothers and fathers. We attended church together. We attended community meetings, and I really became a member of the family. And, my pupils and I, we loved one another. We still do.”

– Mildred Ann Clift, 2010 IU Bicentennial Oral History Project
Newspaper clipping with the title "Retired teacher creates scholarship: award targets job hunters"
Courier News Article featuring Mildred Clift published in February 2010. Thank you to the Filson Historical Society for providing this news clipping.

Later in life, Mildred founded a scholarship program to help dedicated students obtain their goal of going to school. The first scholarships were awarded in 2008. While Mildred lived in Louisville at the end of her life, she remained connected to Jeffersonville and was a devout member of their Bethel A.M.E. Church and was active in their Sunday School programs. Mildred passed away in 2015 at 100 years old.

In October 2022, Jeffersonville mayor Mike Moore proclaimed October 15th “Mildred Clift Day” and renamed Jeffersonville’s Maple School, purchased by the church via funds she gifted, the “Mildred Clift Port Fulton Education Center“.

Virgil Alfred Clift, 1912-1998

BA History, ’34 (Indiana University Bloomington), MA ’38 (Indiana State Teacher’s College), PhD Education, ’44 (The Ohio State University), Hon. Doctorate of Humanities (Indiana State University Evansville)

Virgil Clift is the one student featured in this blog series that didn’t student teach at Crispus Attucks. However, the choice was made to include Virgil as he is related to Mildred (featured above) and has a phenomenal story that should be shared.

Black and white headshot of Virgil Clift wearing a suit and tie in his 60s
1935 Newspaper clipping from the Indiana Daily Student with the title "Clift Improves from Gun Shot; Richardson Held"
Indiana Daily Student article published July 31, 1935.

(Photo Credit: Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center – Indiana State University Evansville 1977 Commencement Program.)

Mildred’s older brother Virgil started at Indiana University Bloomington in 1930. He studied history and was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. After graduating in 1934, Virgil taught at a small school in Maunie, Illinois. During his first summer break away from teaching, Virgil came back to IU for a summer session course and found temporary housing with his KAP brothers. In an altercation with a fraternity brother over test answers, Virgil was shot. According to articles from the Indiana Daily Student and the Indianapolis Recorder, Virgil was shot in the mouth but remarkably survived. However, he would struggle with speech and vision for the rest of his life.

Virgil attended the Indiana State Teacher’s College and earned his Master’s of Arts in 1938 and later completed a Doctorate of Philosophy in Education from The Ohio State University in 1944. Virgil started teaching in higher education and spent nine years at the Agricultural and Technical College in North Carolina, 15 years at Morgan State College where he also served as the Head of the Education Department, and 13 years at New York University. Virgil was also a distinguished visiting professor of education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Virgil also held a great reputation for education internationally, as he became a Fulbright Lecturer and Research Scholar in teacher education in Pakistan in 1954. Additionally, he served as an education advisor of the U.S. State Department’s Agency for International Development to the Kingdom of Libya.

Cover of the book "Encyclopedia of Black America" edited by W. Augustus Low and Virgil Clift, with over 400 illustrations
Book cover of “Encyclopedia of Black America” published in 1981, co-edited by Virgil Clift.

Virgil had multiple works published and deemed important works of scholarship in the fields of education and Black studies. He was the co-editor for the “Encyclopedia of Black America” and was featured in the book “Who’s Who in American Education, 1957-1958.” Virgil also co-edited “Negro Education in America” which was selected by the National Education Association as one of the Outstanding Books published in education for 1962.

Virgil retired from full-time teaching at New York University and took on roles as a visiting professor at The Ohio State University, the University of Illinois, and Northern Arizona University.

In 1976, Virgil earned the Distinguished Alumni Award and an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Indiana State University Evansville (now the University of Southern Indiana) and was the keynote speaker at ISU Evansville’s 1977 commencement ceremony. Virgil passed away in 1997 in Austin, Texas.

Black and white yearbook photo of George Wade wearing a suit and tie

George Wesley Wade, 1910-1982

BA Zoology, ’35 (Indiana University Bloomington), MA ’40 (Butler University), DDS ’44 (Howard University College of Dentistry), Certificate in Oral Surgery (Columbia University)

George Wade was born in Nashville, Tennessee, but grew up in Indianapolis and attended Crispus Attucks High School. In 1931, George started his Bachelor of Arts in Zoology at Indiana University Bloomington.

(Photo Credit: Arbutus yearbook, 1935. IU Archives image no. P0111161)

Newspaper clipping from "The Indianapolis Recorder" with the title "The Voice of I.U."
An example of George Wade’s feature in the Indianapolis Recorder published February 10th, 1934.

While at IU, George was a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity as well as a member of the track and cross-country teams. Often, George would write a series called “The Voice of I.U.” for the Indianapolis Recorder where he would share notable information about other Black students at Indiana University. In the article featured to the right, George includes notes on Ernest Stevenson, Mildred Clift, and Nathaniel Sayles, three of the eight other students featured in this blog series.

After graduating from IU, George attended Butler University in Indianapolis from 1936 to 1940, where he earned a master of arts degree. While going to graduate school, George taught at Crispus Attucks High School as a biology teacher. Other graduate school accomplishments include earning his D.D.S. from Howard University and earning a certificate in oral surgery from Columbia University.

George was also a veteran. In June 1943, he entered the Medical Army at Ft. Bent, Indiana as a trainee and was also stationed in Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky and Camp Pickett, Virginia. Throughout his life, he rose in military ranks to eventually become a lieutenant commander in the Naval Dentist Corps from 1952-1954 where he served as a reserve dental officer at the Anacostia Naval Air Station.

In 1947, George Wade became a faculty member of Howard University’s College of Dentistry where he focused on researching oral pathology. While a professor, George was very active in national organizations and associations such as being the president of the Robert T. Freeman Dental Society and was Editor-in-Chief of the District of Columbia Dental Society Journal. George later became an administrator for the Food and Drug Administration and served the American Dental Association. His work brought great attention to the Howard University School of Dentistry as well as grants for furthering dental research. In 1968, George was honored in the Crispus Attucks Hall of Fame as an alumnus of the school and in 1971 was awarded a Fellowship in the American College of Dentists. George retired in 1980 and passed away in 1982 after a long battle with cancer.

1936 Black and white photograph of 15 members of the cross country team wearing running uniforms
George Wade in the 1936 Arbutus cross country photo – Photo credit: IU Archives image no. P0108866

Wilbert Eugene Miller, 1911-2000

BS Education, ’36; MS Recreation ’48

Wilbert Miller grew up in Bloomington and attended the then-segregated Banneker School for elementary and middle school, and later attended Bloomington High School. In 1931, Wilbert started his undergraduate degree at Indiana University with a major in education.

(Photo Credit: Monroe County Historical Center: 2009.119.0026)

Black and white headshot of Wilbert Miller wearing a suit and tie
Black and white candid photo of Miller in front of a school bus with a group of children
Wilbert Miller in his role at the West Side Community center and Bloomington youth. Photo courtesy of the Monroe County History Center (2009.119.0026).

After graduating, Wilbert started working for the West Side Community Center, located at the site of the former Banneker School, but which was being remodeled as a National Youth Association initiative. Wilbert worked to create local recreational opportunities for Bloomington’s youth and was actively involved in creating an informal basketball league. Wilbert was interviewed in 1985 by Indiana University’s Center for The Study of History and Memory regarding his time at the West Side Community Center. He became the center’s director and ran the city’s recreation department by around 1946.

Wilbert served in WWII with the 2nd Cavalry Division and was interviewed in 1992 by the IU Wartime Military Experiences Oral History Project. After his service, Wilbert received a Master of Recreation from Indiana University, earning one of the first graduate degrees from what was then known the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (now the School of Public Health). Wilbert worked for the West Side Community Center and the recreation department for 20 years, and then decided to work on Bloomington’s public housing initiatives. He became the director of the Bloomington Housing Authority where he helped Bloomington’s low-income community find secure housing. Wilbert stayed busy in local community organizations, serving on the boards of United Way, The Community Action Program, Citizens Participation Council, the Workable Program Committee, The Westside Neighborhood Association, Family Service Association and the Downtown Kiwanis Club. Upon his retirement from the Bloomington Housing Authority in 1976, he was also honored with City Council resolution 76-37 for sharing his service in Bloomington. He was also featured in a 2013 Monroe County Civil Rights Exhibit, honoring his work for making Bloomington a more welcoming and equitable space.

Newspaper clipping with the title "'Elderly, Poor Need Housing, Recreation': says Wilbert Miller, Crestmont Homes Director"
Bloomington Herald-Times article from 1968 sharing Wilbert Miller’s efforts in local housing and recreation initiatives. Clipping courtesy of Monroe County History Center (2009.071.0168).

Concluding Note from the Author: I’m entirely grateful for the opportunity to spend the last five months learning about these eight amazing people and the impact they’ve made on this campus and community. As one of the most robust research and archival projects I’ve ever worked on, these stories are now embedded into my career journey and time as a Hoosier; for that reason, I am honored and thankful that I could share this with the Bloomington and IU community. This research will also soon be featured in a poster in the west display case of the Herman B Wells Library lobby. To see any of the materials featured in this series of posts please contact the University Archives – most of the materials were pulled from C286 IU President’s Office correspondence, 1913-1937).

1 Comment

  • Jeremy says:

    Thank you Jo. It is wonderful to read about these individuals’ experiences at IU and beyond. I am moved by their perseverance to obtain their educations, and the impacts they had on their communities. It is touching that these stories came about from the curiosity sparked from a single letter in the archive, and I appreciate your efforts to bring this together in these posts.

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