WILMINGTON – The Class of 2019 at Salesianum School had to make room for one more graduate at commencement May 31, but no one minded. One of the history-making students who attended the school when it was located at Eighth and West streets but was unable to finish finally received his diploma.
Fred Smith, one of five African-American boys who made Salesianum the first racially integrated school in Delaware in 1950, donned the white tuxedo all graduates wear and was recognized by a full house in the Salesianum gymnasium. Smith was supposed to graduate in 1954 but left when he was drafted into the military.
Oblate Father Thomas Lawless, who graduated from Salesianum in 1908, was the principal in 1950 and admitted the five boys to the school. According to the school, St. Francis de Sales saw the world as “undiverse, that is, unique and diverse, unique along with diversity, and diversity along with unity.”
Four years before the Supreme Court decision striking down racial segregation in schools – Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka – Smith enrolled at Salesianum, along with four other students.
“I see nothing to apologize for other than the fact it wasn’t done years ago,” Father Lawless said after the young men enrolled.