Bakersfield Public History Institute hosted “Journey to CSUB: Experiences in the Civil Rights era”

Ashleah Flores, News Reporter

California State University, Bakersfield’s Public History Institute’s event, “Journey to CSUB: Experiences in the Civil Rights Era,” began with a friendly introduction of the guests in attendance. CSUB’s president, Lynnette Zelezny and several other members of the university’s faculty were also in attendance. The room was filled with chatter and warm welcomes from friends in the audience.

CSUB’s President Emeritus, Hoarce Mitchell. Photos provided by Miriam Raub Vivian

Kiran Garcha, an assistant history professor at CSUB, lead the event by introducing the Little Rock Nine and their impact on integration in schools in the south in the late 50’s. Garcha also provided information on segregation and the history behind Central High School, formally known as Little Rock High.

Horace Mitchell, CSUB’s President Emeritus and one of the event’s panelists, said, “In a small, segregated town in Mississippi, I went to the Booker T. Washington elementary school and there was not, at that point, much about racial integration in schools.”

Integration began in high schools throughout the south in 1957, and students were frequently ‘bussed’ to different schools sometimes, on the other side of town, far away from where they lived.

Bussing was a way to transport African American children to other schools to encourage racial integration. It was almost always not by choice. Integration didn’t happen all at once; it was a gradual process.

Headshot of the President of Student Affairs, Thomas Wallace.

Thomas Wallace, CSUB’s vice president of student affairs, reflected on his own experiences growing up during this era.

“We got a quality education, what we didn’t have was buildings, supplies, and books,” Wallace said. He further explained that African American students didn’t have as many privileges as other students had simply based on their skin color.

Dr. Soraya Coley, former CSUB provost and current president of Cal Poly Pomona, also shared her childhood experiences. Coley described her mother’s sense of protectiveness over her racial identity as a child.

Headshot of former CSUB Provost and current President of Cal. Poly Panoma, Soraya Coley.

She recounted her mother always letting her know that the prejudice had nothing to do with her as a person. It was all based on other people’s hatred and presumptions.

Coley says, “You are okay just the way you are.”

She said that she was grateful for her mother sheltering her in her youth and always reassuring her that other people’s opinions were not a reflection of her.

The event ended with a presentation by Dr. Rhonda Dugan, an assistant sociology professor. Dugan explained where we are now that the civil rights era has past and where we can go from here on out.