Campus activities

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Plainfield High School's 1940 Milestone yearbook page showing Veronica Henriksen's senior photo in the right column along with her autograph for a classmate: "Luck, Veronica."

Veronica Henriksen attended Plainfield High School—an integrated school where black students made up about 14 percent of the graduating class in 1940. Henriksen graduated together with about 50 other black seniors that year.

But when Henriksen arrived at the New Jersey College for Women, she was the only black woman in the class of 1944. Her time at NJC overlapped with only two other known black students: Lydia Benning Moss (class of 1942) and Constance Virginia Andrews (class of 1945). Being a black woman in a predominantly white space could be an incredibly isolating experience. However, like the other early African American students at NJC, Henriksen found her niche and carved out a space for herself at the college. Henriksen was elected vice president of the Bees and secretary of the HEPS club.

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Photograph of the Bees officers, 1944 Quair yearbook. Veronica Henriksen is seated second from the right.

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Veronica Henriksen is vice-president of the Bees club. Courier-News, May 19, 1943

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Veronica Henriksen is secretary of HEPS club. Courier-News, February 28, 1944

The Bees club brought together commuters in an on-campus social setting. At this time, black women were not permitted to live on campus. Since Henriksen was an officer in the Bees, this indicates that she did not live on campus, which supports the argument that she presented as black on campus, or at least did not attempt to pass in order to live in one of the residence halls.

HEPS was an academic club comprised of students in History, Economics, Political Science and Social Science. As HEPS secretary, Henriksen coordinated the visit of anthropologist John B. Adams, whose lecture was titled “A Scientific Approach to Race.”

After Henriksen graduated, HEPS continued to address issues related to race. The club played an important role in advocating for residence hall desegregation at NJC and ensuring that Emma Andrews and Evelyn Sermons had the support they needed to live on campus beginning in 1946. (For more on residence hall desegregation, check out our exhibit Douglass Firsts: Emma Andrews and Evelyn Sermons.)

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Biographical note about Veronica Henriksen written by the Quair yearbook committee