Small Liberal Arts College That Was a Leader in Racial Desegregation Once Again Looks to Boost Black Enrollments

St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, has about 500 undergraduate students. The liberal arts school’s curriculum is built upon the classics such as Plato, Homer, Sophocles, Aristotle, and Shakespeare. In mathematics and science, students read and discuss the works of Euclid, Ptolemy, and Newton. Given its devotion to the classics, it should come as no surprise that only 2 percent of the students at the college are black.

But readers may be surprised to learn that St. John’s College was among the first privately operated colleges south of the Mason-Dixon line to admit black students. The college admitted its first black student in 1948 and in the 1950s enrolled more black students than it does today.

But now St. John’s is seeking to boost black enrollments. This month, for the first time, the college will celebrate the holiday to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Black scholars W.E.B. Du Bois and Frederick Douglass have been added to the classics curriculum. And the college has hired a full-time minority recruitment officer.