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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, February 22, 2001. Interview K-0215. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Recruitment of blacks through sports broke the color barrier at UNC

As an advisor to the UNC student chapter of the NAACP, Pollitt attempted to increase black student recruitment. Even though faced with intimidation by UNC officials and campus police officers, he garnered the support of UNC basketball coach Dean Smith. Smith helped boost black student recruitment and consequently broke the color bar in UNC sports.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, February 22, 2001. Interview K-0215. 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

DAVID POTORTI:
Joe [Straley] yesterday talked about how he was an advisor to a bunch of student groups—this was probably a little bit later on—he said he was an SDS advisor, and at some point the University wanted to get a little more control over these student groups and protests as integration moved over to this campus. Were you involved in any of that?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Yeah, I was the advisor to the NAACP. I was as black as anybody else on this campus. [Laughter]
DAVID POTORTI:
And he seemed to suggest that it was a pro forma kind of thing, where he really didn't have anything to do with the group.
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
I had a lot to do with the NAACP. We had meetings—there were eight, ten, something like that, black students. And they had lots of concerns. And we would meet at Gerrard Hall. Fairly frequently. And the head of campus security would come. And I'd tell him, "We don't need you." Cause he was an intimidating factor. He'd say, "I'm here to help you, make sure nobody hurts you." I said, "No, no, we're fine. Get out. Don't come."
DAVID POTORTI:
I would assume he'd also listen to what was being said.
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Yeah, and take names. Of course, how many names? It's not hard to identify the ten black students on campus. But there's one thing, the hospital was segregated completely, and we thought that was wrong. And there was an overseer or somebody at that time who had come to the campus to hear anybody, about what might be wrong with the campus. So we thought that we would go and talk with the overseers. And it was arranged we'd meet at wherever they were meeting. And we had an appointment from 10 to 10:30 or something, and none of them [the black students] showed up. So I went in by myself, representing the NAACP. You know, they were kids, mostly.
DAVID POTORTI:
So it's not that they were afraid—
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Well, it's a little bit—but then we decided we needed some black athletes. And that might draw more people. So we went to see Frank McGuire, who was the coach of the basketball team, and asked him, why don't you recruit a black player? And he said, "I'd love to. There's a guy in New York"—I forget his name, but he played in the NBA for 20 years— [Laughter]
DAVID POTORTI:
So he was going to recruit him to come down?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
He said, "See if you can help me." [Laughter] So we all wrote letters to this guy, and he went to UCLA, and I forget the name, but you name some all-time great basketball player. And Frank McGuire said, "Yeah, I'm ready to break the color line if we can get the right guy." And then we saw the football coach, and he said no. He had an agreement with a coach at Michigan state that he would refer all the good black football players from North Carolina to him, and the State guy would send everybody from Michigan who couldn't get into Michigan State, down to here. So he said I have this agreement—
DAVID POTORTI:
So he would send blacks up there, and blacks would come down?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
No, whites! Dumb whites! [Laughter] So he was not cooperative, because he had this agreement. But Frank McGuire was very cooperative, and asked for us to help him. And then when Dean Smith took over, he broke the color bar...