Graduate grateful for education, but unhappy with unequal treatment
By NATALIA RAFIDI and SARA RODINO
Nadine Johnson Stewart said she does not like to relive the past; it’s simply too painful to talk about and remember.
“Why bring it up now?” she asked. “It’s too late.”
Stewart said she wishes someone would have contacted her decades ago about her experiences as an undergraduate at Youngstown College.
“It would have meant more then,” she said. “It’s been a long time. They could have given me an activity card a long time ago when I really needed it.”
After a few days of thinking about whether she wanted to talk to students working on a project about life as a student of color at Youngstown College, Stewart finally decided she wanted to participate.
“Yes,” she said. “You can include me as one of the few who are still living from that time.”
Stewart, one of few students of color attending Youngstown College in the late 1940s, is grateful for the education she received and the sociology degree she earned. To this day, however, she said she is scarred by the unequal treatment she and other students of color received at the college.
Stewart, who always wanted to go to college in the South, came to Youngstown College because her father didn’t have the money to send her away. She said she came with a good attitude and a desire to do well in school.
But it was hard to maintain that good attitude on a campus where she felt unwelcome.
“They didn’t treat us well,” she said. “It wasn’t right – even the professors weren’t fair to us and gave me a C when I know I did better.”
She told of a time when she earned a C for a class project and later heard the faculty member bragging about its excellent quality to another person.
Stewart began at Youngstown College soon after graduating from The Rayen School in 1945. She initially began studying early childhood education, but later switched to sociology.
Stewart said it took her a long time to finally earn her degree, in part, because her husband died when her twins were only 5.
She was able to support her son and daughter by cleaning a motel and eventually was able to get back to college.
Later, she landed a job as a probation officer for the county and later, the state. She believes she was probably one of the first women of color to hold those positions.
She tries hard not to be bitter and succeeds much of the time, “but I’ve seen a lot in my life and been through a lot.”