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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Harvey B. Gantt, January 6, 1986. Interview C-0008. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Gantt arrives at Iowa State University

Racial segregation limited Gantt's college choices, but he managed to choose an unconventional place for a black student: Iowa State University. The small number of black students there gave Gantt culture shock. He remembers his frustration that many white students assumed he was a football player.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Harvey B. Gantt, January 6, 1986. Interview C-0008. 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

LYNN HAESSLY:
When you began to think of going to college, what colleges did you pick out and apply to?
HARVEY B. GANTT:
Well, there were two ways I looked at that. In the circumscribed world of segregation, there was Howard and Tuskeegee and A. & T.
LYNN HAESSLY:
North Carolina A. & T.?
HARVEY B. GANTT:
Yes. I never applied to them. I only applied to Howard. But I had made a decision already, being into what I thought America was going to be all about in the future—that is an integrated world—I had already made a decision that I was going to go somewhere to get an integrated education. In other words, I wanted to be in a school where I was taught by black and white professors, etc., because architecture is practiced mainly by whites and I thought that you needed to be in an environment where I got that kind of teaching, or at least integrated teaching. I was a National Achievement Scholar out of high school and that meant that I had some scholarship to any school that I could get accepted to. Howard, and I applied to Iowa State, and Ohio State, and a few others, I don't remember all of them. And decided ultimately, I think I got accepted to all of them, the Ivy League schools were beyond question for me, I got accepted at Iowa State, thought that that would be a great place to go. It was in the midwest, in the middle of the country, in middle America. I got out there and didn't like it.
LYNN HAESSLY:
How many black students were there?
HARVEY B. GANTT:
Not many. In fact, there weren't many blacks anywhere. And that was a culture shock for me; it was really a considerably different place than I had thought it would be. I was mesmerized by the big-time college football and seeing so many black athletes and assuming that the schools were a lot more integrated than they were and made it complicated to find out. Very few blacks matriculated at those universities and those that did were primarily athletes. As a matter of fact, in the first couple of days I was there standing in the registration line, everybody assumed that I was playing on the football team, which insulted me and was degrading.