January 14, 2020

Hank Woodard, Great Migration, and Student Protests

Letters from Beloit College Magazine readers.

The Chief

Joe Davis’10 gets ready to announce a night game in the Dodger Stadium broadcasting booth last ...Thank you for the article on “The Chief” (Professor Emeritus of Geology Hank Woodard). For two years, he not only allowed this biology major the opportunity to learn about rocks, minerals, and land forms, but also set the example of great teaching, which I tried to emulate with my students at Coker College. The impact of doctors Woodard, McAllister, Suiter, and Kunny personifies my Beloit education and continues to impact my life.

George Sawyer’63
Rock Hill, S.C.

Beloit and the Great Migration

I was pleased to read about the college’s new initiative to study the Great Migration and its roots in the founding of Beloit’s African-American community. It was surprising, though, that there is no mention of the earlier oral history/photodocumentary project, with the same focus, undertaken in 1976 by historian Clement Imhoff and myself (with partial sponsorship of Beloit College).

The entire archive of first-person oral history accounts and collected photographs are deposited (and digitized) at the Beloit Public Library as well as in the archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society (Madison). Surely this existing collection would go a long way to enlarging upon and providing a foundation to the good work currently underway.

Lewis Koch’71
Madison, Wis.

Editor’s Note

We regret having missed an alumni connection between a contemporary public history course about the Great Migration of African Americans to Beloit, and a related, but much earlier local history project. (See letter from Lewis Koch’71 above.)

Fairbanks foundry workers, circa 1925. The Beloit company manufactured engines and other products...

In fact, in our fall 2019 story “Coming North,” we published a 1925 photograph of workers at Beloit’s Fairbanks Morse foundry. While this photo came to us by way of the Beloit Public Library, it in fact turns out to be one of many photos and stories Lewis Koch’71 and Clement Imhoff collected in collaboration with the Beloit community during an oral history and photo documentary project 43 years ago, part of the country’s bicentennial celebration.

Another View on Student Protests

I was on campus when Erik Prince was invited to speak. I do not agree with the tactics the students used, but I find it unfortunate that only three letters against what happened were submitted to this magazine. I feel like I should provide a different view. We should take the opportunity to hear why that relatively small number of students took the action that they did.

Often the method of protest becomes the story. An example from my personal experience: We organized a large protest (over 2,000 participated) about the conditions at the Homeland Security detention center in Aurora, Colo., and the separation and mistreatment of immigrant children. Some people other than the organizers came and took down flags. That became the story.

The media never asked why they took down the flags. My guess from having known some of these people is that they have been fighting for changes to our immigration laws for 20 years with no success while living their daily lives in fear. Agree with them or not, the media lost the real story and did not investigate why they chose to protest in the way they did or the message the rally provided.

Back to Erik Prince. Some students told me they objected to having him on campus because Blackwater was a private mercenary company accused of killing unarmed civilians in Iraq and was banned from doing business in that country. Additionally, his company deals in weapons outside of the U.S.-approved system. It is important to listen to everyone.

Bob Norris’66
Longmont, Colo.


Write to Us

Email belmag@beloit.edu with letters and comments about what you’ve read in Beloit College Magazine. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.


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  • The Powerhouse under construction at dusk, lights shining through the building’s windows.

    Countdown Clock at Zero for the Powerhouse

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  • Cover of Beloved by Toni Morrison.

    Reflecting on Toni Morrison’s Legacy

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  • Cover of A Story About Sprout by Helen M. Waters’89.

    A Story About Sprout

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