Another Light on the Hill Black Students at Tufts


Jackson College freshmen, 1933. Irma Thompson is on the left, holding number 322.

The depression years witnessed a nationwide decline in black enrollment in college and universities. At Tufts several black students had to withdraw from school due to financial reasons, and fewer black students enrolled than in the 1920s. Still, students such as Joseph Walker and Irma Thompson were quite involved in campus activities as each captained a varsity sports team. Throughout the decade there were gradual improvements in on-campus race relations. Student-sponsored forums would occasionally host programs addressing the topic of race relations on campus and around the world. In the mid-thirties, students formed the bi-racial group Amity to further understanding among students of different races and to oppose "both individually and collectively, any instances of injustice due to race prejudice coming to the notice of any one of the members." In 1934 the noted writer, composer, civil rights activist and educator James Weldon Johnson was invited on campus to address members of the freshman class.

By the late 1930s, there was a slight increase in the number of black students enrolled. The class of 1941 included four African-American male students, most notably Edward Dugger of West Medford. As a student and as an athlete, Dugger won the respect of his classmates and peers for his involvement in numerous campus activities and for his stellar performances as a hurdler and sprinter. Perhaps the best measure of Dugger's impact upon the Tufts community was the description of him contained in his class yearbook: "We will never forget Eddie Dugger, who is one of the finest athletes Tufts has ever had. He is unaffected by the fame he has attained, and his leadership and ability will never be forgotten."

– Gill, "Another Light on the Hill"