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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Asa T. Spaulding, April 13, 1979. Interview C-0013-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Dealing with discrimination at NYU in the 1920s

In the late 1920s, Spaulding arrived at New York University. He would excel there, but first had to deal with discrimination. Dissuaded from living in an all-white dorm, and told by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that he had no recourse for complaint, he settled down with a relative, 140 blocks north of the university.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Asa T. Spaulding, April 13, 1979. Interview C-0013-1. 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

WALTER WEARE:
Now, as I recall, you were telling once before about your living arrangements.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, yes. You see, when I went there, I had applied for admission. They had one dormitory for school of commerce students—Varick House. And I had applied and sent the deposit, and was accepted. If I've told you this, I won't repeat it.
WALTER WEARE:
Well, I think it's important to report it.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
All right. That's where I felt this matter of discrimination probably more keenly than at any time before. And when I presented myself, and had my trunk and all there, delivered there, and went in to obtain my room, they questioned whether or not I had reservations. I told them I had, and I had my receipt for it, and I showed it. And the house manager, or whoever it was—I found out later he was from Charlotte, North Carolina— but he was in charge there, and he came and he saw that I had my receipt, and that I had been admitted. So his approach was to try to persuade me not to insist upon it. He said, "Because, you know, there are a lot of Southern students here, and they will make it miserable for you." Well, he was probably right in 1927. "And the circumstances under which you would have to stay would be most difficult, and it could even result in your not being able to pass your examinations." Well, I listened to him and all. I said, "Still I'd like to have my room." Well, I don't remember all the details of that now, but in the final bottom line of it, he had my check in his hand. And he said, after he told me about how it would be unpleasant, and I wouldn't enjoy it at all and so forth and so on, he handed me my check. And, thoughtlessly, I accepted it. But I went directly from there to the NAACP office and reported the situation in detail. I told them that he had returned the check and I had accepted it. They said, "Well, there isn't anything we can do for you. If you had not accepted that check, we might have forced the issue."
WALTER WEARE:
The sense of the contract was no longer valid.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's right. Because he had offered the refund and I had accepted it. So then I had a half-sister that lived up on 144th Street. I remember the address: 242 West 144th Street. I went up there and stayed with her the whole time I was there at NYU.
WALTER WEARE:
That's some distance from NYU, isn't it?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, yes. NYU was down on 4th Street. I had to used the elevated train back and forth over there. So, you see, I'd get from the post office anywhere from eight thirty, nine, nine thirty at night, and would have to get up in time the next morning to catch that train, to be down on 4th Street by eight o'clock. I'd get off the elevated train and have my breakfast at a Greek restaurant right there at the foot of the steps, and go on over.