|Six generations graduate from Clark Atlanta|
A UMNS Feature
of the William Boston Long family circa 1929 stand in front of their
house in Atlanta. UMNS photos courtesy of the Long family.
By Linda Green*
Feb. 12, 2009
If eleven-year-old Harlyn Wyatt decides to attend United
Methodist-related Clark Atlanta University, she will continue a legacy
that began in 1924.
When her great-great-grandfather, William Boston Long, graduated
from historically black Clark College in 1924, he began a tradition
that has lasted through six generations. Nearly 30 members of the Long
family have received degrees from Clark College, which today is known
as Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Ga.
“It is very interesting to hear about my family that went to Clark
and I think I would want to go to Clark when I grow up,” Wyatt
She and other young people hear a lot about the graduates and their
alma mater when the family comes together. The family home was
located near the university on Fair Street.
“We would walk across Fair Street and go play in the grass in the
field. And at the same time, I was taught that great grandpa built
those buildings and that wall you had to cross, so it was like walking
on hallowed ground,” said Mary Beth Blanding, a 1988 graduate of Clark.
Clark Atlanta University is the result of the 1988 merger of Clark
College, a four-year undergraduate liberal arts institution, and
Atlanta University, which offered graduate degrees. It is one of 11
historically black academic institutions related to The United
“My grandfather represents a lot of very positive things,” said Rolanda
Blanding Fowler, also a 1988 graduate of Clark. The school’s history is
replete with the contributions Long made to it and to education in
Nearly 30 descendants of William Boston Long and his wife Blanche have attended Clark Atlanta University.
“That was the family dinner conversation,” explained Wylma Long
Blanding, a 1962 Clark graduate. “All we ever heard was Clark. We just
knew almost from birth that we were going to college and we were going
to Clark. We knew we would become educators and administrators and that
is what we all did.”
Family members were involved in sit-ins during the civil rights
movement in the 1960s and they helped integrate tennis centers and
businesses in Atlanta. The family hosted Arthur Ashe and Althea
Gibson, two premier African-American tennis stars, because they could
not stay in the hotels, as well as members of all-black sports teams.
Ralph Albert Long Jr., a 1966 graduate, said before integration,
historically black colleges and universities were almost the only
options for African Americans. He said his family members
“integrated and caused change in America at quite a lot of different
“I think they (the family) are proud of their history and are carrying on the legacy,” Blanding said.
Acknowledging the trail blazed by her father, Blanding said the Long
family has a legacy of education. “It was their belief that everyone
should have the opportunity to attend college.” To ensure that
every upcoming child could attend college, the family pooled their
That expectation for higher education continues for the family’s
youngest members. “They understand that they are required to go to
college and we are hoping that some of them will attend Clark,”
The Black College Fund is one of several avenues The United Methodist
Church established to help families like the Longs meet those
expectations. The 35-year old fund provides financial support to
United Methodism’s 11 historically black schools and the nearly 16,000
students enrolled. The United Methodist Church supports the
largest number of black colleges and universities of any church body in
the United States.
Clark College was founded in 1869 by the Methodist Episcopal Church.
“In the larger schools and universities, students are frequently a
number, but at historically-black colleges and universities, the
classes are smaller,” Blanding said. Students get to know their
instructors and “it is a much more comfortable atmosphere as we prepare
for the real world.”
Fowler chose to attend Clark because of its significance to her
family. “When we were growing up, we were exposed to Clark throughout
our entire lives,” she said.
The family’s history in education and with Clark is a source of
pride for Fowler. That pride is evident as she talks to the
college-bound children of her friends. “It means something because they
know that I went to Clark, my parents went to Clark and they listen and
it does make a difference,” she explained, adding that the daughter of
a friend has chosen to attend Clark Atlanta University.
The black college experience is important for so many students
because “you need to know that as an African American that you can be a
leader, that you can stand out, that there are people like you who are
successful,” Fowler said.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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