From Houston Public Media:
When Donato Clay was in 11th grade at St. Thomas Episcopal school, he learned from a friend that the school’s founder had published segregationist writings in the 1950s and ’60s.
But he said he never learned about those writings while in class.
“Was there malintent behind it? Probably not,” Clay said. “But it definitely set the tone for what was acceptable, and what was welcomed, and what was encouraged.”
Clay went to St. Thomas Episcopal from 1990 until 2003. Now, he’s a healthcare executive and serves as a reservist attorney for the Army National Guard. He said for 12 out of his 13 years at St. Thomas Episcopal, he was the only black male in his class.
In recent weeks, alumni like Clay have been publicly sharing what they’ve learned about St. Thomas Episcopal’s history, and what they experienced at school — things like the segregationist writings of the school’s founder, the band playing “Dixie” even into the early 2000s, and photos in the 2014 yearbook that show two students in blackface for a theater production.
Clay is also among alumni from private schools around Houston sending open letters demanding schools make amends for the past, and enact anti-racist policies and curriculum moving forward.
The open letter to St. Thomas Episcopal administrators that Clay drafted is patterned after a similar one from alumni of another prestigious private Houston K-12 school: St. John’s.
“The reality is that from the very beginning of this American project, black people have been fighting for equality and the recognition of our humanity,” reads the letter from black St. John’s School alumni. “We acknowledge the consistent racism–both covert and overt–that black students at St. John’s experience from members of the St. John’s community and that has continued to define our experience from generation to generation.”
More than 100 black alumni have signed the St. John’s letter, and another few hundred non-black former students have signed onto a second letter of support.