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Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, February 22, 2001. Interview K-0215. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Emerging from a family of progressive ministers, military servicemen, and attorneys, Daniel Pollitt came to link his religious and liberal racial beliefs to his civic duty. His forward-minded family heritage influenced his choice of careers. Pollitt worked as a clerk for a court of appeals judge and later served on the staff of Joseph Rauh, founder of Americans for Democratic Action. By the late 1940s, Pollitt discovered a passion for teaching and taught legal courses at American University and the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. However, when asked to sign a loyalty oath stating noninvolvement with racial justice organizations, Pollitt refused. Instead, he assumed a teaching position at the University of North Carolina School of Law. At UNC, Pollitt emerged as the liberal faculty supporter for civil rights causes. Although some students remained apathetic to social issues, Pollitt argues that UNC students, and more notably, local high school students, pushed civil rights issues to the foreground in Chapel Hill. Student activists opposed the Speaker Ban law, which prohibited communist speakers from speaking on campus. Pollitt describes his efforts, along with those of Bill Alstyne and McNeil Smith, to defend the students. Smith's closing statement invoked the progressive tradition of UNC students, and the Speaker Ban was abolished. Pollitt also participated in nonviolent training to prepare blacks and student activists to resist segregationists' violent attacks, and he served as the faculty advisor to the student NAACP organization. He wrote favorable articles about southern integration for UNC law school dean Henry Brandis, including "Equal Protection in Public Education, 1954-61," "Dime Store Demonstrations: Events and Legal Problems of the First Sixty Days," and "Legal Problems in Southern Desegregation: The Chapel Hill Story." Pollitt's involvement with civil rights protests primarily consisted of picketing and legal defense of civil rights demonstrators. He actively sought ways to recruit black students to UNC. Pollitt ultimately found support from basketball coach Dean Smith, thereby helping to break the color barrier in UNC sports. Pollitt worked with several advocacy groups, including the North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union and the Association of American University Professors. His support of civil rights issues led to physical and verbal threats.
    Excerpts
  • Racial justice beliefs influence decision to join UNC's law faculty
  • Local school desegregation lawsuits required the political activism of Chapel Hill citizens
  • Recruitment of blacks through sports broke the color barrier at UNC
  • Origins of the Chapel Hill civil rights demonstrations of the early 1960s
  • Depth of student support of civil rights boycotts in Chapel Hill
  • City politicians impede, religious groups support civil rights activism
  • Speaker Ban controversy at UNC
  • Physical and non-physical attacks of anti-desegregation forces
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.