Monday, June 17, 2013


Oberlin College
Gus in front of admission office
Oberlin, Ohio

Enrolled NMH students:
Julian Snow NMH '10

My trip to Oberlin was unique in a lot of ways.  Firstly, I stepped foot onto campus, expecting the sleepy demeanor of summer break, but was met with the most exciting and interesting celebration.  Secondly, despite being a summer visit, I walked away from Oberlin feeling an intense connection to its mission.

I walked on campus in the midst of the "Juneteenth celebration," on the 150th  Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.  Oberlin has played an impressive role in its commitment to education for all.

Gus wanted to Jump the Broom
Even Gus got a wristband
In 1835 Arthur Tappen agreed to resolve some of Oberlin's financial debt with one stipulation; they must strongly display a commitment to admitting young men to Oberlin regardless of race. The result of this was by 1900, thirty percent of African American graduates of predominately white institutions were Oberlin College Alumni.

Oberlin also became the first college to implement coeducation. The first women were admitted in 1837 and were the first women to receive a college degree in the the United States.
A Committed Couple in full Civil War Era Costume
preparing to "Jump the Broom" together

At the Juneteenth information table a volunteer explained to me that it is believed that Oberlin was among the final and most established stops on the Underground Railroad. The town was known as a safe-haven for freedom and equality, and  it is believed that every slave who made it as far as Oberlin eventually made it safely to Canada. Students, faculty, and town residents are incredibly proud of the institution's important role in American History.

Among the most amazing traditions I stumbled across in my self guided tour was the “Jumping of the Broom” ceremony. The officiant at the “Jumping of the Broom ceremony” invited committed couples to step forward and announce their commitment to the community by jumping over the broom. He explained that this ceremony is in part honoring those slaves who were unable to practice the traditional marriage rituals of their home families and traditions. There are many interpretations of the origin of the “jumping of the broom," but in the moment I was quite taken by the energy and excitement of the participating couples. The couples ranged from being committed to each other for 6 months to 64 years!
Gussy on the roof of the conservatory.
Oberlin's Conservatory of Music was the first
to offer a 4-year music education program
in the United States.
The conservatory offers majors in performance,
composition, music education, music theory,
electronic and computer music, jazz studies,
music history, and a double major in piano
performance and vocal accompanying.
Performing in or listening to live music performances
are assuredly a part of each Oberlin students experience.
There are an average of 500 concerts on campus each year.

By the time I left Oberlin, I was impressed not only by its incredible facilities, but by its displayed commitment to education for all.  

Where next?
University of Michigan   Ann Arbor, MI

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