Lack of integration at UNC
When Abramson graduated from West Charlotte and enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she found an even less integrated environment than the one she left behind. She remembers an effort to establish a black cultural center, intended in part to educate white students about black culture. The center might also have helped insulate black culture against absorption into the culture of the white majority, which is what happened at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Carrie Abramson, February 21, 1999. Interview K-0275. 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
PG: How was your experience at UNC, would you characterize that as an integrated experience?
CA: No. I think it had a lot of the same pitfalls that West Charlotte did, but I think we were, I think UNC was a lot more aware of them. While I was at Carolina one of the big issues on the campus was trying to establish a Black Cultural Center. And, so there was a lot of open acknowledgment of, especially by the American Americans on campus, but, in fact, I don’t even know if it’s called an African-American Cultural Center now. I don’t think it is. I think it’s still called a Black Cultural Center. But there was not an acknowledgment necessarily by the whites as much, but there was an acknowledgment by the blacks on campus that they needed a stronger sense of community at Carolina, because there wasn’t, there really wasn’t one. There wasn’t a place for the blacks to congregate and to, and, to be honest, for whites to learn about blacks. I mean, one of the big arguments for having a Black Cultural Center was, “There are a lot of people who come here who don’t know anything about blacks.” And have a lot of other negative stereotypes, or just don’t know anything. Don’t know enough to know there is a difference. And that need something to create a forum for discussing race and discussing those issues. And so there was a lot more discussion there, although I felt like in some senses it was integrated, again, through some of the same ways of activities, and sports, and living conditions were more integrated. But there tended to be, over time, when you first started as a freshman living conditions were very integrated. But over time, people tended to move to where there were more people like them. And, I think, both probably, probably both blacks and whites were guilty of that. But that was a big difference. There was at least an acknowledgment of the fact that we were separate. And I think there may have been at West Charlotte, but I don’t remember it as well. But I remember it clearly in college.
PG: Well, you might consider at West Charlotte there wouldn’t necessarily have been a need for a Black Cultural Center.
CA: Well, it was a much bigger portion of the population. Right, than at Carolina, where it was—I don’t even know what it was, but it was low. It was low overall number.
PG: Then, in a sense, I guess West Charlotte was a black cultural institution.
CA: Right. And it was in a black community, as well, which, so it was sort of a black community cultural center, in a sense. But it’s interesting, because you’re right in that there was much more of a black culture there. And there was just a much larger—part of it I just think was purely numbers. I mean, I think, the blacks at Carolina didn’t feel as comfortable because they were such a noticeable minority, and so they felt the need to feel a stronger sense of community because there were so many fewer of them and they felt like in a way they were getting overwhelmed by everything else. Whereas at West Charlotte probably there was a large enough sense of community that you didn’t necessarily feel like you were being, I don’t know this, but that you weren’t being as subsumed by the white culture as probably was happening at Carolina. So that was very different.