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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 >>

An African American in Ann Arbor, Michigan, does not experience discrimination

The color line in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was not particularly deep, Spaulding recalls. He did not experience discrimination, whether at movie theaters or white churches.

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:
Were you the only black student in the actuary program there, or in those classes?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
There was an Indian student, an East Indian student in two of the courses. There was a Korean student in one of my courses in mathematics. And frankly, I don't remember any other black students in any of those courses at Michigan.
WALTER WEARE:
What about in the student body as a whole? Would you see blacks on campus?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
There weren't many. Very few. And most of those who were there were in the professional schools. Now, there were a few women students from Detroit who were there. And I remember the first woman to stay in the dormitory at Michigan was a daughter of a physician in Detroit. He was a very prominent physician. And she applied and was admitted. I don't know whether they knew beforehand what her race or identity was or not. But I know that she was admitted and stayed there. And, of course, it was very much a subject of conversation, about her staying.
WALTER WEARE:
Now you didn't live on campus?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. I lived with a private family.
WALTER WEARE:
A black family?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes.
WALTER WEARE:
How was that arranged? Do you recall?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, they had certain available residences, approved residences, for the students on campus. And this was one of them. It was a very nice home. A nice arrangement, not too far from campus. I stayed there the whole two years that I was there.
WALTER WEARE:
Did you feel more isolated though, in that area, than you had in New York? By that I mean socially.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. Because on the campus, you see, it was only in the evenings. During the day I was over on the campus. I took my meals in the Michigan Union there.
WALTER WEARE:
Had you tried to go to, say, the theatre in Ann Arbor?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, we went to the theatre. That's what I say. This fellow Roberts and I went to the theatre all the time together.
WALTER WEARE:
What about restaurants? Did you notice a color line being drawn?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. Because of the campus environment; any students who were students at the University of Michigan. I attended a big white church right on the campus. And the minister—oh, he became a bishop shortly afterwards—but he was quite a speaker. And they had a black church, too. I alternated between there and the church that had a black minister. He was a very good speaker, too. Very good.
WALTER WEARE:
So there was a substantial enough black community in Ann Arbor to have a church?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes. Although I don't think he had more than a hundred members, more or less. And a lot of the black families who were there, so many of them worked at the University in some capacity.