At Fisk University many female students arose early to eat breakfast, apply tons of makeup, arrange their hair in neatly manicured styles, and head off to class-most in the highest of heeled shoes! Very few did not wear heels all day long. Dress codes—self mandated I supposed—were very strict, and during pledge season very, very strict. A single run in hosiery would send a pledgee to scrub the cafeteria floor with a toothbrush I was told by the returning students. Guys were well-groomed, also, as they were “decked” in nice sweaters, highly polished shoes and creased pants. . If students were not careful to use the proper silverware in the proper order, they were privately ridiculed.
To the contrast, UK students were more relaxed. All females did wear dark brown, shiny weejuns with tassels the first year I was there. Seemed to be a uniform foot dress code, but the regimen ended there. I had to adjust to both scenes as my mother had to purchase a new shoe wardrobe for me, since none of those shoes were a scene at the high school to which I had gone. I was not privy to talk of any existing hazing incidents, but then I wouldn’t have been because of my minority status.
In all fairness, UK was a large sprawled out campus which was not conducive to heels whereas Fisk was more compact to accommodate the kinds of shoes that almost all of the females wore. But thank goodness, both were flat terrains, unlike Western Kentucky University in my hometown which is nothing but one big hill. I huffed and puffed my way through graduate classes there and longed for the days that I had the flat walk strolls to class at both Fisk and UK. (I am digressing, I know, but still in keeping with being a Kentucky Woman during this era.)
Discussing a different Kentucky college such as Western Kentucky University, painfully reminds me of my home birthplace right on the spot where the Diddle Arena Sports Complex now exists and how WKU had Urban Renewal come through and practically just take the homes of African-Americans without adequate compensation or time to even shop around for commensurate housing.
My church was leveled and my aging grandmother and other aging relatives had to move. They fought, but to no avail. (See more on this issue at the Notable Kentucky African Americans database – and see a museum poster about Jonesville below.) As a matter of fact, those memories in addition to my mother’s desire for me to attend UK drove me away from WKU. Mom was a Tennessee native who married my dad (a Bowling Green native) and moved to Bowling Green.
Back to student dress. All of the other clothing on both campuses was pretty much the same as today with skirts, sweaters, blouses, shirts and pants except at Fisk, coats and sweaters for females were often fur-trimmed. The preceding differences speak volumes for the school cultures during that era, and any reader should make the determination as to why, keeping in mind that one was a private institution whose ancestors were removed by approximately eight decades from slavery years, while the others consisted of students whose forebears had always been free. The latter had less to prove.