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In 1945, a call for equality silenced

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February 12, 2008

12:32 PM

__Flat Hat chief fired after writing for racial integration__

Sometimes all it takes is a single voice to incite an uproar.
Marilyn Kaemmerle ’45 did just that when she was fired as editor-in-chief of The Flat Hat after writing a 1945 editorial that called for the College — and the country — to change the way it looks at race.

p. In “Lincoln’s Job Half-Done,” Kaemmerle encouraged racial equality while denouncing notions of white supremacy.

p. “The Negroes should be recognized as equals in our minds and hearts,” she wrote. “For us, William and Mary; this means that Negroes should attend William and Mary; they should go to our classes, participate in College functions, join the same clubs, be our roommates … and marry among us.”

p. Kaemmerle also placed the College’s race relations in the context of World War II.

p. “The most important work, however, must be done in educating ourselves away from the idea of White supremacy, for this belief is as groundless as Hitler’s Nordic Supremacy nonsense.”

p. While this article may seem quite radical for Kaemmerle’s days, it was rather conservative. She tempered her assertions by declaring that racial integration at the College “cannot and should not be done today, or tomorrow, — but perhaps the next day. Neither they nor we are ready for it yet.”

p. Yet these mild words caused an uproar at the College. The day after the editorial was published, then-President of the College John Promfet informed Kaemmerle that the Board of Visitors wanted her either expelled from the College or removed from her position as editor-in-chief of The Flat Hat. In a Feb. 21, 1995 article of the Virginian Pilot entitled “Ex-W&M Editor Recalls Equal-Rights Column Furor,” Kaemmerle recounted the experience.

p. She said, “He asked that I sign a statement saying I thought a censored paper was in the best interest of all concerned. And I said, ‘Well, I can’t do that. I’m not the editor.”

p. According to the article, the issue was settled when Kaemmerle was removed from the newspaper, and the remaining Flat Hat editors agreed to “consult a faculty member on controversial issues.” Interestingly enough, Kaemmerle had “no idea what a ruckus her editorial would cause.”

p. But the article would cause even more ruckus 41 years later. According to the Dec. 5, 1986 Flat Hat editorial “The Kaemmerle Affair,” the Student Association Council approved a resolution that called for the BOV to “make amends” for the 1945 decision to remove Kaemmerle as editor.

p. This was not the first time that the BOV was encouraged to make amends for the decision. Another article of the same issue, “BOV records raise questions,” reports that, in 1980, Kaemmerle sent a letter to the BOV asking them to “disavow the action it took in 1945.” Then Rector Edward Brickwell responded by saying that the current board could not be “the conscience of previous boards.” Nonetheless, submitting under the pressure of the student body, the BOV did make amends, sending Kaemmerle a letter that stated that she “was a credit to the College family and the Board.”

p. After writing the controversial article, Kaemmerle was invited to meet with Eleanor Roosevelt. She also received numerous job offers after graduation from the College, including one from NBC television. Kaemmerle continued her involvement in civil rights as a wife and a mother. David Quinto, Kaemmerle’s son, recalls that “My parents helped circulate a petition to proclaim that our neighborhood was open to persons of any race. That earned them the enmity of neighbors who were concerned that property values might decline, and my sister and I were subject to snowball attacks launched by the children of some of those neighbors.”

p. Kaemmerle also supported her husband, Henry Quinto, in founding the Tuscon chapter of the National Urban League.
David Quinto remembers his parents fondly, saying that “My sister and I were deeply influenced by the examples of both my parents set. Knowing that they had both stood up for morality has certainly influenced my outlook on life and has led me to attempt to lead a life they would be proud of.”

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