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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 >>

Protestors respond negatively to Baker's homosexuality

Shortly after he became involved with the protests in Chapel Hill, Baker began a sexual relationship with John Dunne, a white male student activist. Their relationship was problematic for some of the other students, and eventually the state NAACP student representative attempted to end Baker's NAACP involvement. The prominence of several homosexual men within the national NAACP caused that plan to backfire.

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:
Did you know in the Durham, Chapel Hill area or anything in that there was there was any place that gay men hung out, because it was also not segregated.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Nope, did not know, did not go there.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Just was not your focus and not the way that you met guys, going to a bar.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
No, most of the time that I was going to Chapel Hill, I was involved with John Dunne. I spent most of our time together at his, he had a room in a wonderful house on Franklin Street. He had friends, Professor Spearman, Walter Spearman and his wife were all friends of John Dunne's. Most of the activities, most of the things that we did when we were in Chapel Hill was about the movement, it was about civil rights, it was not about gayness. I am trying to even think—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
You can only have too many focuses.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Right, yeah, it just wasn't a place—We had friends and we knew people that were gay. I am trying to think, I did not even know that, because I used to make comments that there was not even a gay bar in Chapel Hill, that is how little we knew about that. I mean, we would do things like, I knew John Knolls. I think I talked to you about John Knolls, before. A Separate Peace is a book that he wrote, I could not think about it. He was at UNC and Reynolds Price was at Duke and John knew them, or knew people with them and we were invited to a party at John Knolls house, or we went to a party. But you know, when we went to a party at someone's house, it was always mixed, I mean, it was not a gay thing.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Right, the gays were there and they seemed too—
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Gays were there. I mean, John Knowles was gay Reynolds Price is gay, they all, they had the parties, there were all kinds of young men around, I think that is the only one that I really remember there were, but that is the only thing that I knew, you know.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Was it kind of scandalous to people that not only were you in a gay relationship, but that it was a biracial relationship as well in this period of time? I mean, I guess that with a lot of people, this did not even register, you were just friends. Because people see what they want to see.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Right, well it registered at the time, Floyd McKissick had left the NAACP and gone to CORE [Congress of Racial Equality, a civil rights organization founded by James Farmer], Charles McClain had become the state youth advisor for the NAACP, and he complained to the national board that I as involved in a relationship with a white male and I had to go to New York, because I was state youth, I wasn't just the local—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
So, what was the issue, that you were involved with a male, or that you were involved with a white male? [Laughter]
QUINTON E. BAKER:
It was an issue that I was involved with a male, I think, more so than it was that I was involved with a white male. So, that was more the issue. And it was an issue, which I refused to answer, by the way. I was brought to them and—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
You said that it was none of their business basically.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Basically, I said, that—Well you see the charges were trumped up, it had to do with disloyalty, it had to do with no being loyal to the NAACP and being more loyal to CORE or something, which was simply not true and the issue was that I was the state youth president for the NAACP, so that made it an issue, but in that complaint, they also folded in this relationship with John and my ‘overprotectivness’ and what have you with John.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
So, homophobia was an underlying factor?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Oh yeah, I think, yes, yes, yes. But you see, it was very funny during the time, because the national youth secretary for the NAACP was a gay male, whom I knew, and who I had, we were friends. I would visit him at his home in Chicago and various places, so it was interesting that this would come up. And, he was supportive of me, and he was particularly much more supportive because I refused to, to give in to the inquiry.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Wonderful, well that is a perfect segway into me asking the role of gay people in the black civil rights movement as a whole.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
We were all over the place; we were all over the place. But the problem is that, that we were not—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Do, you think that since gay men were different, that that was a way for them to have an outlet for activism for justice, or was it just that gay men were everywhere anyway?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
But they were very much fighting for justice, I mean they were very much; we were a part of that cliché. We were the intellectual, cultural sort of segment of the community that saw things necessarily different, but were willing to risk things. I mean, if you think about it, the person who planned, who actually planned most of the work on the March on Washington was a gay man.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
He was attacked by Strom Thurmond for being a ‘pervert’ [said with a heavy southern accent to be silly]
QUINTON E. BAKER:
That's right, who was kept in the background—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
I can't remember his name
QUINTON E. BAKER:
His name is Bayard Rustin, Bayard Rustin. But Laplois Ashford was the state youth, was the national youth secretary for the NAACP, I have no idea where he is now.