The Generals made progress over the decades. In the 70's, we find Washington and Lee athletes pictured with the sports teams. Yet Washington and Lee entered a period of stagnation shortly after the 1973-1974 sports season. As we looked through several of the Calyx yearbooks and sports roster photos, we found almost no difference in the number of African Americans on the teams from their first appearance in 1973 through 2017. As pictured previously, the ‘73 football roster has four African American players - just like the 2017 roster. This is true surrounding all Washington and Lee sports programs. Women’s basketball today has one African-American player, just as they did in 1989. Women's teams such as cross-country, track and field, volleyball, and swimming featured black females in the late 80's and early 90's, but now have no representation from African Americans.
We can only attributed the stagnation to the low overall percentage of African Americans at Washington and Lee. The 2017-2018 Washington and Lee student body is approximately 3% African American. This is also the highest proportion of African American students the school has seen on campus. The extremely low percentage of black students at Washington and Lee has not changed substantially since the early days of integration. There are just fewer black students available to participate in athletics.
We interviewed an African American student from the class of 2008 at Washington and Lee, a former member of the track and field team. He expressed how it can be difficult to recruit black students to a school where there is "virtually no black presence," let alone among athletes. He ended the interview stating, "Until there is an increase on campus, there will be stagnant numbers on campus." While it was a big step to turn from refusing to play a team with an African American in 1915 to having a few black people on the team in the 70's, there has been virtually no improvement in the number of African American athletes in over 40 years of university history. Until there is a larger black community fostered on campus, the stagnation will likely continue.