- Nathaniel M. Campbell
- I am a medievalist and an adjunct college instructor in the humanities at Union College. My research includes medieval theologies of history, text/image relationships in visionary and mystical texts, and the writings of the twelfth-century Doctor of the Church, St. Hildegard of Bingen. I am also a translator of medieval Latin and German texts, especially as relate to my research. I completed a Master's in Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame in 2010, a Fulbright Fellowship in Germany in 2008, and a B.A. in Classics and German at Boston College in 2007.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
SWANNANOA, North Carolina (AP) -- There is no monument to Alma Shippy.
No plaque describes how, in 1952, the shy teenager packed a bag of clothes, caught a ride in a friend's pickup truck and walked into history on the campus of Warren Wilson Junior College.
It's an obscure vignette in civil rights history. Shippy not only was Warren Wilson's first black student, but one of the few to attend any segregated college or junior college by invitation -- and not by court order and armed escort.
A core of Shippy's family and friends -- some of whom paved his way and some whose path was paved by him -- want wider attention for what they see as a bright moment of brotherhood in one of the South's darkest eras.
"There were no dogs, no guns. He didn't have to be shot at. There was nobody that was beaten up, nobody died because he came here," says Rodney Lytle, a 1974 Warren Wilson graduate and now the school's multicultural adviser. "And that -- that story -- that is beautiful!"
And it didn't happen by chance.
Shippy's presence was the culmination of a decade of work by leaders of Warren H. Wilson Vocational Junior College and Associated Schools, created in 1942 from the merger and expansion of two high schools run by the Presbyterian Church.
Arthur Bannerman, born in Africa to Presbyterian missionaries, was named the school's new president. With new Dean Henry Jensen, he opened the school's doors to a variety of outsiders, starting with two Japanese-American girls from an internment camp in Arizona.
They were missionaries, says Warren Wilson graduate Marvin Lail, with a philosophy of "not just telling you but showing you."
Bannerman began writing to church-connected schools for blacks, seeking a student who might want to come to Warren Wilson. It wasn't until the spring of 1952 that the men learned of Alma Shippy, a 17-year-old who had befriended some Warren Wilson students in local churches where he helped teach Sunday school and Bible classes.
Lail, then 16 years old, was deputized to walk across the Swannanoa Valley to Buckeye Cove -- "truly on the other side of the tracks" -- where Shippy lived with his grandmother, Ludie White. He invited Shippy to speak at the campus evening prayer service.
Jensen watched Shippy's brief address, and afterward joined Lail in asking whether he might like to attend Warren Wilson. Then, as now, students help with their expenses by working at the school. Shippy, who had no money for college, said yes.
"I think he was really taken aback that white men or peers -- I was just a boy -- would come and invite him to a white college," Lail said.
There was a hurdle: The college had one dormitory for male students and Shippy would have to live there. Jensen called a meeting of the 55 Sunderland Hall residents.
Jensen "was a very smart man and was a good speaker and (said), 'We're going to integrate the college and we want it to be sooner rather than later, because it's coming down the road and everything will be integrated,"' Lail recalled.
Listening was Billy Edd Wheeler, about to start his final year at Warren Wilson. He was brilliant and athletic, a popular campus leader who later became an award-winning country music songwriter.
But he knew what it meant to be a misfit -- born poor and illegitimate in a West Virginia coal camp and sent to Warren Wilson four years earlier to appease an unloving stepfather. The question of accepting this stranger struck at his heart.
"I had that ingrained in me, that I could never be better than anybody else," Wheeler said. "I think that was part of it, being able to empathize."
Lail, too, was moved by a childhood spent in the company of black sharecroppers on his family's farm who cared for him as his mother began a slide into mental illness.
"They were very good to me, fed me. I thought, 'Why do we treat these people so bad?"' he said. "I thought, 'This should be changed."'
The vote was 54-1 to accept Shippy. He began classes at Warren Wilson Junior College in the fall of 1952.
Support from classmates
After the first few days, his presence drew little attention on a campus that already housed students from China, Cuba, Europe and South America, Wheeler said.
"It sort of settled into just a routine of life and you didn't think much about it," Wheeler said. "But for the people here in the valley, it was a pretty big deal."
At night, the college phone rang through to Bannerman's home. His 11-year-old daughter, Mary -- now Wheeler's wife -- fielded a couple of calls offering the traditional slur for whites who befriended blacks.
It was "scary, and proud," she recalled. "I can wear that badge of honor."
Classmates did, too. Shippy later told the Asheville Citizen-Times about going to an ice cream parlor in the Swannanoa community with a group of students.
"They sat me in the middle of the booth and that just did not work," he recalled in a 1994 interview. "(The manager) said, 'We can't serve you. You can get it to go and take it outside.' I had a hard time convincing the students not to tear up the place."
Instead, they all left.
The college tried to downplay Shippy's presence. Bannerman was friends with the editor of the Asheville newspaper and asked him to keep it quiet "for safety, for Alma's safety and the students' safety," Mary Bannerman Wheeler said.
The first newspaper story about the school's integration appeared in September 1955. By then, Warren Wilson had five black students and its first black graduate, Georgia Powell, who had earned her associate's degree that spring. And by then, Shippy was long gone; he left after one year, to make some money for his family, his brother Michael said.
He joined the Army, then moved to Indiana, where he married and fathered two girls. Except for occasional correspondence with a few friends, Shippy vanished from Warren Wilson life until 1987.
Reconnecting with campus
Then, his marriage over, he returned to the Swannanoa Valley to care for his aging grandmother, going to work at a state-run long term care facility. He again became active in his church and enthusiastically backed local youth sports teams, sitting behind the umpire at Little League games so he could cheer for both sides.
That's where Rodney Lytle first encountered the stranger who had a silent, but major impact on his life. A friend nudged him and pointed to Shippy. "He's one of you," she said.
Lytle was confused. He had two cousins who attended Warren Wilson in 1959 and knew blacks had gone there for years, well before it became a four-year college in 1967, well before he met his wife there, earned his degree, got his job.
But he had never seen this older man or heard the name Alma Shippy. He walked over and struck up a conversation, "and from that moment on we were friends."
Lytle became Shippy's champion, determined not only to commemorate his accomplishment, but to help him live a more comfortable life.
Though Warren Wilson had long required students to complete service projects to graduate, no one had done anything to help its first black alumnus.
A pair of students organized a crew to fix Shippy's house. In 1994, the college included Shippy in the centennial celebration of its original farm school. And eight years later, on the 50th anniversary of his enrollment, the board of trustees passed a proclamation honoring Shippy, Bannerman, Lail, Jensen and all those involved.
Shippy had prepared a three-page speech, but when he stood to read it, the pages rattled in his shaking hands, Lytle said. He took his seat again and began to cry.
"I can't say anything," he told Lytle. "I'm overwhelmed."
In early December, his friends gathered once more, crowding into the college chapel for a memorial service, a few days after Shippy's death at 72. They are determined that it will not be the last time the school marks his memory.
One former classmate has proposed a scholarship in Shippy's name. Shippy's family, Lytle and other college officials are discussing a permanent memorial -- a marker, or perhaps a tree outside Sunderland Hall -- for Shippy and all those who welcomed him into their lives not because of a court order, but as a matter of fairness and faith.
"This group of people at Warren Wilson College was open-minded and willing to accept Alma not as a colored guy, like they called us then," Michael Shippy said. "They accepted him as a man."
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
In diem cinerum Anno Domini MMVII
Today, we begin again our annual journey of fasting and prayer, to prepare ourselves for the ultimate mysteries of the life of Christ. Today our foreheads are anointed with the sign of the cross, fashioned with the black dust of ashes. Today is a day of confession, a day of penitence, and a day of mortality. We confess today our sins to God, the sins which every single one of us has committed, abundantly and grievously, against Him and against our neighbors, against His Love and against the love we owe to Him and our neighbors, against His Grace which we he has so mercifully sent to us but that we have so brazenly rejected. In donning today the ashes, the sign of penitence, the sign of our profound poverty as sinful human beings, we approach the altar of God, marked in our contrition. It is a penance that we owe to God, “for the fierce anger of the Lord is not turned back from us,” (Jeremiah 4:8). Therefore, “O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in ashes,” (Jeremiah 6:26), and “O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved!” (Jeremiah 4:14). Finally, today is a day of our mortality. Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris— Remember, Man, that thou art dust, and unto dust shalt thou return. Indeed, today we remember that we men are mortal, destined to quit this tired life. All too soon will our bodies turn to ash, and so with ash do we anoint ourselves, recalling also that these frail bodies perched on the razor’s edge between life and death are not our own, nor is the life with which we animate them, but that we have this life only by the grace of the Creator.
Our confession today is also the confession of the death of Christ. We take the ashes today in the form of the cross, professing thereby that it was Jesus Christ who hung from the Cross, and that it was our very sins that nailed Him to that tree. We lay ourselves penitent, as did the Magdalene, before His feet, and as we anoint ourselves with the filthy ashes and dust of the earth, so we anoint Him with the ointment from the precious jar. We remember today that, as man is mortal, so, too, Our Lord Jesus Christ suffered death on that Cross. His body lay, stiff and lifeless, in the frigid tomb, as, too, shall our bodies at the end of our mortal toil.
Yet, today is also a day for the remission of sins, a day for the salvation of souls. This confession we make, this penitence we perform, this mortality of which we are so starkly reminded, are not the end of this day. No, they are but the beginning, for we confess our sins and repent of them, that God might have mercy upon our souls, quia multum misericors est dimittere peccati nostri Deus noster— because Our God is much merciful to remit our sins. We recall also that, though it is our sins that pin Our Lord to the Noble Tree, it is yet His Love by which three days thence He burst the door of that dark tomb, leaving it empty for all the world to see that by death He had destroyed death and returned unto us eternal life. Indeed, humiliated by our own wretchedness, we shall yet be lifted up: we know that Our Redeemer liveth, and that at the latter day he shall stand upon the earth. So, too, we know that our own mortal bodies, though they shall now wither in death, yet shall they, too, be raised up at the latter day. The ashes we wear today as a sign of our own mortality have yet been sprinkled with that Holy Water in which we were baptized, in which we have already died to sin and been reborn, indelibly marked with the sign of the Risen Christ.
As mournfully as we walk through the valley of tears when, penitent and lowly, our heads receive that mark, we yet approach today the altar not once, but twice. When we come again to the Lord’s Table, we come to receive His True Body and True Blood, not dead but immanently alive, the bread and wine become the immortal flesh of the God-Made-Man. Even as is come to us today the day of penitence, so, too, is come to us today, as is come every day in the Eucharist, the day-spring from on high, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet in the way of peace.
The Peace of the Lord be with you all, my dear readers, and take heart today that, though we are unworthy that the Lord should come under our roofs, yet he has spoken the Word that our souls might be healed.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
That's right - they've done it again. After the smash-hit success of Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis (Peter Needham's brilliant translation of the first book in the Harry Potter series), and of Ἃρειος Ποτὴρ καὶ ἡ φιλοσόφου λίθος (Andrew Wilson's equally brilliant, though far more difficult, Greek translation), comes Needham's attempt at the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The Times offers a review that borders on the droll, though nonetheless reminds us how wonderful it is to be able to read Harry Potter in the language that he's really meant for - Latin. (For those of you who don't know, this is a specialty of mine, having written [and rewritten with successive books] my expansive high school senior thesis on the classical connections, both linguistic and literary, in Rowling's spectacular creation).
Now, when I sit down at the beginning of the summer to reread all 6 books in advance of the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the 7th and final book, on July 21, I can read the first two in my preferred language.
Friday, February 16, 2007
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Once again, any and all feedback is requested and welcomed.
“In thee, O mother, I believe
And father mine, that I receive
665 From you all grace’s loving pure,
With which a father and mother
Their child should grant, afford, and grace,
As have I found to be the case
From you at ev’ry passing day.
670 For have I by your grace’s way
My soul and a fine body fair.
Me man and woman praised declare,
All they who catch a sight of me,
That I the fairest child be
675 That in their lives they’ve seen so fine.
To whom should I the grace assign,
But to you two, though after God?
So ought I by your order’s prod
E’er gladly stand, abiding true.
680 How great my duty is thereto!
O mother, blessèd woman thou,
Because my soul and body now
Have I from your grace’s present,
So let it be with your consent
685 That I may cut them both away,
Removèd from the Devil’s sway,
And must myself to God ordain.
Yea, ‘tis the life of this world’s reign
None other than the soul’s privation.
690 The worldly pleasure’s strong temptation
Hath not as yet upon me borne,
Which leadeth hence to Hell-fire’s scorn.
Now shall I God give thanks and praise
That He hath in my young, short days
695 For me good sense of mind affirmed,
That I this languid life infirm
Regard of very small concern.
So will I, pure, myself return
And to the pow’r of God succumb.
700 I fear, should agèd I become,
That me worldly seduction sweet
Would drag and tear beneath her feet,
As hath she pulled so many strayed,
Whom, too, her sweetness hath betrayed;
705 So simply would be God denied.
To Him it must be ever sighed
That I should live to see the morn.
No comfort found, this world I scorn.
Its comfort is a hardship great,
710 Its greatest joy a sorrow’s weight,
Its sweet reward a bitter woe,
Its lengthy life death’s sudden blow.
We’ve nothing else more sure than so:
Today success and ‘morrow woe
715 And in the end e’er death’s oppress:
This is a wretched, grim distress.
No aid from birth, nor goods’ defense,
Nor beauty, strength, high spirits’ sense;
The virtues and high honour aid
720 No more against dark death’s cold shade
Than lowly birth and vice uncouth.
Our life and our so vital youth
Is but the dust and shadows brief;
Our firmness trembleth as a leaf.
725 He is a fool, queer and perverse,
Who doth himself in smoke immerse,
Be it a man or woman then,
Who cannot this bethink and ken
And climbeth up the worldly rung,
730 For o’er the stinking, rotten dung
Is spread for us the costly silk.
Whome’er this dazzle now doth bilk,
He is to Hell’s hot furnace born
And hath no less than this forlorn:
735 His body and his soul above.
Be mindful, blessed woman, of
Your mother’s promised loyalty
And soften now your sorrow’s plea,
Which have ye now for mine own sake.
740 So, too, my father thought doth take:
I know he willeth my health’s part.
He is a man so ably smart
That well doth he discern, that ye
Cannot for long have yet with me
745 Your joy divine and gladness main,
E’en if I yet alive remain.
Abide I without husband here
With you for two or e’en three year,
Then is my master likely dead
750 And come we in distress so dread
By poverty’s quite easy way,
That ye could not such dowry pay
To any man for me enough,
That I must live so poorly rough
755 That ye would rather I be dead.
But let us not speak of such dread,
Such that be us no trouble’s fear
And with us should my lord so dear
Extend his stay and so long live,
760 ‘Till one me to a man could give,
Who wealthy be and noble fit:
Then hath it been as wish ye it
And hope for me well should it be.
Else hath my mind advisèd me.
765 Be he my dear, this is distress;
Be he my sorrow, death’s oppress:
So always have I suff’ring’s blight
And am complete with hardship’s plight
Cut off from comfort’s easy type
770 By matters of a many stripe
That trouble women and dismay
And lead them from their joys astray.
Now me that full provision lend,
Which there ne’er cometh to an end.
775 A Farmer Free doth for me yearn,
To Whom I well my life return.
Indeed, to Him ye should me give,
Thus well supported shall I live.
His plow is very light to pull,
780 His house of all supply is full.
There neither horse nor cattle die,
There troubleth none the children’s cry,
There not too warm and not too cold,
There none become of long years old
785 (Become the aged younger still),
There neither frost nor hunger shrill,
There none of any kind of pain,
There ev’ry joy without the strain.
To Him will I myself outstretch
790 And flee from such a farm, the wretch,
Which hail and thunderstorm doth beat
And wash away doth flooding fleet,
With which we fight and e’er have fought.
Whate’er a man through long year’s lot
795 Can struggle for and lay away,
‘Tis lost in but a half a day.
This farm, I will leave it behind:
It be by me cursed and maligned.
Ye love me—that is decorous.
800 Now shall I gladly see it thus,
That your love be not love’s offence.
If ye can with right mindful sense
Discern my case and with your wit,
And if ye grant me and permit
805 Possessions and the honour’s trim,
Then let me turn myself to Him,
To Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Aid,
Whose grace is so steadfastly laid,
That it no end doth e’er endure,
810 And, too, hath He for me, though poor,
A love as great and as serene
As hath He for a high-born queen.
I should by mine own fault’s offense
Out of your favour’s countenance
815 Ne’er come, God will it and God speed.
‘Tis surely his command decreed
That I be subject you unto
Because I have my life from you:
This render I without regret.
820 My loyalty I should not yet
Transgress, which to myself I owe.
I’ve always heard the saying go:
Whoe’er doth so another glad
That he himself becometh sad,
825 And who with praise doth other crown
And his own honour deep doth drown,
His staunchness be too great indeed.
How much I will for you this heed,
That you I loyalty afford,
830 But most of all myself accord!
Will ye from me salvation steal,
Then would I rather let you feel
Awhile for me the flowing tear
Than that that be in me unclear,
835 Which to myself in charge I owe.
I always thither will to go
Where I shall joy in fullness find.
Ye have indeed more children kind:
Let them your joy and flower be
840 And comfort you because of me.
Not one can bar me or impede:
To health I verily will lead
Myself and my lord master dear.
Yea, mother, I before did hear
845 Thee speaking and lamenting so,
‘Twould cause thy heart great pain and woe,
Shouldst thou stand o’er my earthy tomb.
Thou wouldst be free yet of such doom:
Above my grave thou standest not,
850 For where I meet my death, my lot,
To see that none will suffer thee:
‘Twill happen in Salerno’s lee.
852a There shall this death release us four
852b From ev’ry kind of suff’ring sore.
Through this, my death, be saved will we,
And I far better still than ye.”
Sunday, February 04, 2007
“The myth of colorblindness, a dangerous and unattainable way to look at people, has made its way into our institution as well. In the words of Father Leahy in 1997, “Our Judeo-Christian heritage proclaims that we are members of one human family, each one of us made ‘in God's image.’” The God of which Father Leahy speaks is historically white, as decided by the First Council of Nicea in 325 CE, an endeavor to melt the various religions of theIt would seem that Fr. Leahy (the president of Boston College) made a grievous error in preaching the unity of mankind; indeed, if we are to belive TRUTH’s contention about “colorblindness,” it is really the color of our skin that must define who we are, not the content of our character (I presume, therefore, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., simply misspoke when he expressed that particular dream). Furthermore, it would seem that the great message of Christianity was early on corrupted by white Western European men (please note: the Council of Nicaea took place in present-day Turkey and the majority of its attendees were bishops from the east whose skin color was, needless to say, several shades darker than the blond-haired, blue-eyed Nordic peoples) in order to subjugate those whose skin color was different than those same white Western European men. (At this point, many of you will probably be trying to figure out whether to laugh at this contention’s absurdity or to cry at its stupidity.)
Roman Empireinto one religion under a Holy Trinity including a Jesus Christ that has been depicted as white. More than a mere oversight, this has a tremendous influence that goes unchecked while people wave around the concept of colorblindness as a solution to the deep seeded [sic] racism that was often supported by Christians throughout the colonization of the Americas.”
Personally, I weep and am ashamed that Boston College could produce students whose understanding of the message of Christ is that colorblindness is “a dangerous and unattainable way to look at people” and who see in the statement, “Our Judeo-Christian heritage proclaims that we are members of one human family, each one of us made ‘in God’s image’” a profanity discriminatory against peoples of different skin colors. To deny the unity of the human race in the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross is to deny his very message: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother,” (Matthew 12:50), “... so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others...” (Romans 12:5), “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought...” (I Corinthians 1:10), and perhaps the most astonishing of all, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28).
Such vapid and nonsensical claims about Christianity and its message as this contention that Christ does not unite us demonstrate once again how little the leaders of this TRUTH movement understand about our true nature in Christ. Indeed, their name is a lie and heresy in itself, for they preach not the truth that “shall set you free” (John 8:32) but the falsehood that binds us to these meaningless and divisive labels of skin color. I have myself tried to engage the leaders of this movement in a philosophical dialogue about the nature of race and what place it has in our schema of determining human dignity, and they have rebuked me immediately. Rather than listen to the reasoned arguments of logic, they block up their ears, and rather than see the inestimable worth of a human being that lies beneath his skin, they cast their eyes no deeper than its color.I call on each and every reader of this blog to sit back now and think for a moment about themselves. Think about how it is that you view the world. Do you walk through life and see division everywhere, everywhere the differences that segregate man from man, woman from woman, race from race, everywhere only black, white, yellow, red, brown, and the other fallacious “colors” of peoples’ skin? Or do you walk through life and see unity everywhere, everywhere the common dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God, everywhere that inestimable worth granted to humble man, a sinner, by the great sacrifice of Christ, the God-Made-Man Who gave His Life for us that we, together and united in Him, might share in His everlasting, glorious, and awesome Life?