Unreconciled: Race, History, and Higher Education in the Deep South (Hardcover)
How do well-meaning people help a community move beyond its past when confronted by those who hold ingrained stereotypes, profit from maintaining the status quo, or are filled with antipathy toward others? This book tells the story of how a Black university president tried to do just that when he led the first non-court ordered merger of an historically Black university with an historically white two-year college in Albany, Georgia.Arthur "Art" N. Dunning came of age in the Black Belt of Alabama during the Jim Crow era. Among many pivotal experiences, he was part of a group of student athletes who helped to integrate Bear Bryant's University of Alabama football team in 1967. The values instilled in him by his family and those in his close-knit community, together with life experiences through education and from living, working, and traveling abroad over more than forty years as an educator, shaped his approach to leading Albany State University, an HBCU, through its 2016 merger with all-white Darton State College. The community's reaction to the merger proved to be an extreme example of what our nation is experiencing today. The perceived threat of embracing change while racially integrating two institutions brought out painful stereotypes, racial orthodoxy, tribalism, suspicion, and conspiracy theories. It peeled away a veneer of racial harmony and exposed unhealthy patterns of behavior and entrenched beliefs held by community members of both races. Dunning shares here the hard but valuable leadership lessons learned when his race and his personal southern history intersected with a university and city that were abruptly forced to acknowledge their own history--and were challenged to envision a different future.