Why I chose to take the road less traveled…
Many of my friends who decided to stay in Mississippi for college attended Jackson State University (JSU). Although I was granted a full scholarship there, I chose not to attend. Many thought I was crazy to turn down the scholarship, but I had chosen to attend school elsewhere. I had my eyes set on a place that was not a large, fancy university with thousands of students hurrying off to class. To this day, it still does not have a football team or a band.
Why would I choose such an institution? As a high school senior, I knew I would experience more personal growth on a campus where every student was focused strictly on academics, bettering themselves, and their community. In my opinion, Jackson State provided excellent educational opportunities, but also offered too many other activities. In such an environment, students could easily stray away from their true purpose of going to college. It was for these reasons that I chose not to attend JSU, but instead Tougaloo College. Tougaloo was and still is one of the most prestigious private liberal arts colleges in the South. It is the premier place for serious academic students and its graduates continue to make great strides in the workforce and their communities.
Tougaloo College is situated on the Boddie Plantation, a former slave plantation. Although the college is small, it is filled with the spirits of our ancestors who once worked the land and longed for the equal rights to read and become educated. With less than 600 students, I was swept into the school’s mission to bring about change in the world. Tougaloo exemplified this mission by initiating change within its own community. During the civil rights movement, the school served as a safe haven for activists such Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evans, Fannie Lou Hamer and countless of others. These fearless individuals used the campus to plan sit-ins, marches, and voter registration drives.
During my time there, Tougaloo provided buses so students could attend the Million Youth March in Atlanta. Students also traveled to the Gulf Coast to protest the continued use of the confederate symbol on the Mississippi state flag.
Tougaloo, although a small, private institution, is well known for producing successful lawyers, doctors, and educators. Yes, the tuition at my alma mater was thousands more than that of JSU, but the seed of activism that was planted in me is invaluable, so I’d have to say without wavering Tougaloo College was well worth every penny.
To read more about Tougaloo College and its role in the Civil Rights Movement, check out these resources:
* Photographs of the Tougaloo mansion in the 1900s were from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Photos of artwork are from http://www.tougaloo.edu/artcolony/gallery.htm All other photographs and video components were taken by Jacqueline Samuel.If you enjoyed this article, please use the buttons below to share it with someone else who you think will also enjoy it. Thanks!
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