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Bulletin Winter 2017 Vol. 8 No. 1

1 2 B U L L E T I N the high profile sit-ins during the years of the Civil Rights movement. Much to Quillian’s chagrin, two students at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, Rebecca Owen ’61 and Mary Edith Bentley Abu Saba ’61, took part in an unannounced sit-in in Lynchburg on December 14 with two black students from Virginia Seminary at Patterson’s Drug Store downtown. Quillian was not happy that two of his students had participated in a sit-in. Rebecca and Mary Edith were arrested and jailed. Quillian bailed them out of the Lynchburg jail the same night, but he believed that their very public protest made desegregation harder, not easier. Lynchburg was shocked by what Rebecca and Mary Edith had done, as were most of their classmates. Not only did the young women stand trial and serve a month in jail for what they had done, but they were taken through a difficult and painful hearing before the Judicial Committee to determine if they should be expelled from the College. But while Quillian struggled with what the young women had done, he also clearly did not believe in segregation. His disagreement with Rebecca and Mary Edith was over means, not ends. The importance of the issue was weighing even more heavily, when Quillian announced in 1963 that the College would begin accepting black students in two years. Now Quillian found himself in the same position that Rebecca and Mary Edith had occupied: he was shocking the sensibilities of proper Lynchburg. Three trustees resigned and said in a very public letter that they knew other trustees agreed with them that Quillian had done an unacceptable thing. Expanding liberal education But Bill Quillian never flinched and never looked back. In its true essence, Quillian was carrying out another step in the revolution that William Waugh Smith had begun when he opened Randolph-Macon Woman’s College: extending the net to provide liberal education to people to whom it had previously been denied. It is worth stepping back at this moment to remind ourselves of exactly what liberal education is: education for a free people. When liberal education was first started in ancient Greece, free people were white male citizens of the polis. The curriculum chosen for educating those men was determined to be the one that gave them the skills they needed to live as free people. Slaves were educated differently, for instance, for the skills they needed in their work, such as running banks, but they did not need the skills to become citizens since that status was denied to them. Liberal education would change and take on many new forms in the subsequent 2,300 years, but only in America did liberal education finally unfold as a vehicle to freedom rather than simply an education for people who already had


Bulletin Winter 2017 Vol. 8 No. 1
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