It's rush week for University of Alabama sororities, an event that is under an unusual amount of press scrutiny this year because, after 2013's rush, the school's student newspaper published a bombshell report in which several sorority members alleged that they had been instructed by alums not to admit black women. Somewhat buried in the story of outright discrimination was a staggering fact about Alabama sororities' racial history, one highlighted by Marie Claire in a recent piece about the experience of a black woman named Chrystal Stallworth:
At the time Stallworth went through rush—and since the first sorority opened at the university in 1904—only one woman who was identifiably black had ever been offered a bid, or invitation to join, during formal recruitment. Her name was Carla Ferguson, and she pledged Gamma Phi Beta in 2003. (Another woman, Christina Houston, rushed Gamma Phi Beta in 2000, but it wasn't known that she was half black until after she was accepted.)...in the years that followed, none of the 16 traditionally white sororities extended a bid to an African-American.
By this account, in 104 years of Greek life, 16 of Alabama's sororities had admitted a combined one black woman through their rush process. (There are other sororities at the university that are traditionally nonwhite, and some of the white sororities had admitted black women outside the rush process.)
National outrage and student protests followed the student newspaper's report, and 21 minority women subsequently joined the traditionally white sororities after action by university President Judy Bonner.