Black Domers

Author: Kerry Temple ’74

This article originally appeared at in September 2014. To kick off Black History Month, we republish it here as part of Magazine Classics, a new series highlighting notable works from the magazine’s archives.

Some stories need to be lived in order to be told truthfully, truly and fully.

But even an African-American student would be unable to tell the story of being black at Notre Dame because there is no single story, no singular experience, no one person who can speak for all who have come here from so many places, families and personal histories. It would take a book to explain. And one with many voices.

Now we have that book. Black Domers: Seventy Years at Notre Dame honors Frazier L. Thompson ’47, Notre Dame’s first black student, and all those who came after — many of them pioneers venturing into what for them seemed like foreign territory.

The book offers the first-person accounts of almost 70 African-American alumni, from the first blacks admitted in the late 1940s to some who graduated in May 2014. Thanks to co-editors Don Wycliff ’69 and David Krashna ’71, and to Jim Langford ’59, head of Corby Books, which published the collection in June, the 500 smooth-reading pages provide the shapings of that history, the pieces of a narrative that is both diverse and universal. Despite the individual perceptions and experiences, they all might agree and say change isn’t easy, and that Notre Dame is better for the richness of diversity grown over time.

We’ve gathered a sampling of stories, a representative mix of memories and impressions, and posted them here over the past few weeks. We appreciate the opportunity to share their words and extend the conversation to others in the family.

Jerome Gary Cooper ’58
Arthur C. McFarland ’70
John Banks-Brooks ’72
Bonita Bradshaw ’77
Rod West ’90
Azikiwe Chandler ’94
Owen Smith ’95
Jamie Austin ’04
Rhea Boyd ’06