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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Quinton E. Baker, February 23, 2002. Interview K-0838. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Becoming involved in civil rights protests

While at North Carolina Central University, Baker became active in the civil rights protests occurring around Durham and Chapel Hill. He describes how he first became aware of those actions.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Quinton E. Baker, February 23, 2002. Interview K-0838. 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

CHRIS McGINNIS:
And for our listeners, we should say NC Central University, which is in—
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Durham, yeah, it was North Carolina College at Durham, at the time. It is now known as North Carolina Central University. Because I became active in the civil rights movement early in my career at Central, actually in my first year at Central—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
What got you interested in it, was it something that—?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Actually it was something that started before I left high school. I always resented not being able to do things, or being told that there was a limit as to what I could do, and so that the movement to change that was very important to me, not so much—because it would change the way that I could interact with the world. I often use, you know, coming from Greenville, you know that East Carolina University is there now. It was East Carolina Teacher's College at the time. When I was growing up, the only thing that a person of color could do on that campus was work in the kitchen or as a janitor. We were not even allowed to attend performances or anything over there, and I remember very clearly early on in my career, I mean my life that there was a performance—I think it was Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians or something that was over there and I wanted to go because I was singing in the high school choir and I was not permitted to go and it was those kinds of things that—it was going downtown with my mother and not being able to get something at the lunch counter, or dealing with the segregated signs which made it very easy for me to become engaged in the civil rights movement. There is not particular impetus at school, or there was no incident, it was just that this was something that I needed to do.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
It was a continual life trend that you were just following through with.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Yes, right, this was just—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
So, there were already organizations that were, as with any college, that were activist in nature and—
QUINTON E. BAKER:
There was the student NAACP that was active on the campus that was very active. The sit ins had begun in they year before—had begun in the spring, I entered school in the fall, so there was one of the people engaged in the early sit ins in Durham.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
This was 1960?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
1960 was Lacy Streeter who was from Greenville and I was in school with his brother, so there was some connection, so when I came to Central finding that group of people who were actively engaged was what I looked for, so—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Okay, great. So, obviously demonstrations started happening on the sit-in level in the different areas and the local level. What brought you to Chapel Hill? Why weren't you demonstrating, or maybe you were demonstrating in Durham? You were demonstrating all over? Tell me a little bit about the demonstrations.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Okay, I was very much engaged in the movement in Durham, by the time I became the president of the student chapter of the NAACP on the campus, I was involved with the Durham youth group that was involved. I was one of the leaders around Floyd McKissick during the period of time, we had a major thrust in Durham to desegregate Durham in 1962, 63. We had massive demonstrations downtown, we had boycotts of the stores and we were having, we were doing mass rallies in the evening. At one of the mass rallies in Durham.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Was this made up predominantly of college age students?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
No
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Or was it from the community as a whole?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
It as from the community as a whole. It was high school and college, and the college students were not that, you know. If you look at the core of us, it was a core of a few of us from college and a few students from Hillside High School that were really engaged and a few students from Duke, they came in later on, that were actually engaged in sort of the core activities of the student rights movement in and around Durham. Floyd McKissick at that time was the state youth, was with the NAACP, and was pretty much the legal advisor for the group in Durham, and so he was really sort of our mentor and it was through him that we spent a lot of our time planning demonstrations, planning the negotiations and talking to people.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
I am sorry, what was his name again?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Floyd B. McKissick. You can't miss him, I think he was the first African American to attend the University of North Carolina Law School in 1950 something, okay?
CHRIS McGINNIS:
I knew he sounded familiar.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Okay, okay, and so that was how we got involved.