Mercer’s First Black Student, White Roommate
to Speak About Racial Barriers at Founders Day

February 15, 2011

Contact: Mark Vanderhoek at (478) 301-4037 or vanderhoek_m@mercer.edu

MACON —Sam Oni, the first black student to enroll at Mercer University, and his white roommate at Mercer, Donald Baxter, will deliver the University’s Founders Day presentation on Wednesday at 10 a.m. in Willingham Auditorium. In a presentation titled “Breaking the Racial Barrier at Mercer,” the two will recount their experiences when Oni integrated Mercer’s Macon campus in 1963.

Baxter and Oni were roommates during Oni’s first year at Mercer and, nearly 50 years later, they will participate in a series of events on Mercer’s Macon and Atlanta campuses sharing their struggles and successes during that tumultuous time.

In 1963, Sam Oni became the first black student to attend Mercer.  He was an African missionary convert from Ghana, and he was encouraged to attend Mercer by a Mercer alumnus who was a missionary in Africa.  It took a year of deliberation by a special committee at Mercer to decide that he should be admitted, and he enrolled on the Macon campus.

Baxter was a prominent basketball player and popular Mercer student and, after conversations with University administrators, he agreed to be Oni’s roommate. Oni and Baxter had to endure many instances of prejudice, both on the campus and in the Macon community, including difficult experiences in local churches. Their story is powerful, troubling, but ultimately uplifting, and is an important event in the history of Mercer.

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