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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, August 20 and 21, 1976. Interview A-0328-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Chapel Hill enlightened in spite of the local civil rights protests in the 1960s

Sanford argues that the civil rights protests in the 1960s made Chapel Hill seem like a place with many lingering racial problems when it was actually advanced, as compared to the rest of the South. He believes local people were pulled into the movement by leaders from outside the state who made unrealistic promises.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, August 20 and 21, 1976. Interview A-0328-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

BRENT GLASS:
Reading that account, it seems like that was a point at which there was some division within your staff as to how to handle the Chapel Hill . . .
TERRY SANFORD:
Well, Tom Lambeth and several people kept me from being as mean as I might have been, because I had felt that we had been betrayed. Not deliberately, they just didn't understand what they were doing.
BRENT GLASS:
Coming from the outside and . . .
TERRY SANFORD:
Well, it wasn't just . . . of course, there were insiders there. You know that there were local kids and people, but they were carried into this thing with a failure to understand what it was all about. You know, I didn't really fault them even for their ignorance.
BRENT GLASS:
Do you think that any of this goes back to the whole image of Chapel Hill as being sort of an outpost . . .
TERRY SANFORD:
Well, that too was rather an unfortunate choice, to make Chapel Hill the symbol of this kind of resistence, to accentuate that kind of minor resistence, there were only two or three places and almost everybody else in Chapel Hill had tried on a voluntary basis . . . I say two or three, I really can't think of only two. There are bound to have been more than two, but there weren't many. Chapel Hill had already led the nation and the whole question wasn't so much these two places as much as it was that they wanted the city to pass what literally would have been an unconstitutional . . . well, I don't know whether it would have or not, because it hadn't been decided by a court, but most lawyers thought that the city didn't have the authority to pass an open accomodations law ordinance. But even if they had, Farmer and McKissick, by throwing down that kind of challenge had made it politically impossible for the council to pass it.
BRENT GLASS:
Yes, I was thinking about even politically statewide, Chapel Hill's image and . . .
TERRY SANFORD:
Well of course, it was in advance of everything else and still, they pick up the little resistence there and make it appear that Chapel Hill is an evil place when it was probably the most enlightened little town in the South at the time. That further added to my resentment. Well, I didn't lose my head. For that matter, we played it very properly but I told them exactly what I told the Ku Kluxers when they threatened to prevent the painting of a little Negro church in eastern North Carolina, when they said that they couldn't be responsible for law and order if these Presbyterians came to paint and I reminded them that they didn't need to be, I was. I staked it out the night before and caught two of them trying to burn it down and I put them in jail.