By MOLLIE FINCH BELT
The Dallas Examiner
In 1962, I transferred from Spelman College to the University of Denver after my freshman year. My father selected the university for me. It is a private Methodist university with relatively small class sizes at that time.
At DU, I experienced an integrated society as an adult. There were no segregated facilities in Denver. There were few Black students there – less than 10 in the undergraduate school, about nine in graduate schools.
I lived in Aspen Hall, a dormitory consisting of apartments. My parents put me on the meal plan so I ate in the dining hall and did not cook at the apartment.
I had two White roommates. One roommate was Connie; she was Catholic and was from New York. She had her own convertible car and would take me to the beauty shop in the city to get my hair done. My other roommate, Bonnie was from Michigan and was Protestant. We had lengthy conversations about religion and race.
I was the first Black person they met and they were curious. Bonnie was always tanning and loved my skin color. They had to wash their hair every day – I didn’t. They wanted hair like mine. Connie was dating a guy who was Jewish, but her parents did not want her dating him and vice versa. This was my first encounter with the various religions and the strong feelings Jews had about marrying White Protestants.
In my second year, I requested to room with Muriel Wilson, she was Black and from Austin. We were roommates until we graduated. We lived in Centennial Hall, a new dorm with traditional dorm rooms.
DU did not have a football team. Their big sport was hockey.
The hangout for students was a beer pub called Crimson and Gold – known as CG – and I learned to eat pizza and drink beer.
I dated a graduate student from Louisiana who took me to the International House downtown where the School of International Relations students gathered in a lounge. I met students from all over the world and we talked about world affairs.
The DU girls, as we were called by Blacks in the city, went to parties in the city where there would be Black students from other colleges and universities in Colorado – Air Force Academy, University of Colorado, Colorado State College, etc. There was a party about once every three months.
Even though the Black students were free to go where we wanted to and to associate with whomever we wanted, the Black students spent our social time together. We chose to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together in the dining hall. We went to parties together. On Wednesday nights, dormitories would rotate having what was called “coffee hours” from 10 p.m. to midnight. We would call each other and agree to meet at the coffee hours. One student, Barbara Harris from Chicago, had a lot of soul records and she would bring them so we had music we liked to listen to at the coffee hours.
I pledged Delta Sigma Theta Sorority in a mixed chapter that was alumni and undergraduate. Muriel pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha in the only undergraduate chapter of a Black sorority on campus.
There were no dorm hours or housemothers or demerits like at Spelman. We could basically stay out at night as long as we wanted to or take weekends in the mountains, at ski resorts as long as our parents signed a general permission slip at the beginning of the semester which all parents signed. They felt we were adults and could “sink or swim.” If you got on academic probation you were basically expelled for a semester.
This was a new freedom for me but I was able to handle it. I studied and made good grades and was well disciplined.
I majored in sociology and minored in psychology. I learned to be an independent thinker. I had lived primarily in a segregated society, with the exception of the three years I lived with my parents in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
I graduated from the university in the spring of 1965 and returned to Texas.
Mollie Finch Belt is the publisher of The Dallas Examiner and the daughter of the newspaper’s founder. She can be reached through email@example.com.