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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 >>

Baker is paroled and transfers to the University of Wisconsin

Though Baker was paroled after a few months, the North Carolina officials disrupted not only his own life but also that of his family. His parents had to move to New York, and he and the other protestors were paroled to other states so that they could no longer live in the South. Further, because he had to transfer universities, he was in school for much longer than he otherwise would have been. After the end of this passage, he discusses the other careers he had before returning to North Carolina.

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:
So you just were just dispersed all over the place, you had done your part.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
We didn't disperse voluntarily—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Oh, were you required to not—
QUINTON E. BAKER:
I was paroled to New York, where my parents had been forced to move, but I was paroled—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Oh my god, what did your parents think of all of this?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
My parents—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
I guess they would be supportive, and yet their lives were massively disrupted.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Their lives were massively disrupted, they never asked me to stop, they never tried to pressure me to stop, though they got a lot of pressure from people in my home town, which as you know is Greenville, as you know they got a lot from around the high school—trying to get them to get me to stop what I was doing—they never did, the only thing my father ever said to me was, "I wish you would leave those white folks alone."
CHRIS McGINNIS:
But that was the most he said.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
That was the most. They were—My mother was terrified of me, I can remember that when I was doused with ammonia and Clorox at that—someone sent the picture to my mother where I had fallen out the door—but the paper, they sent the picture from a newspaper—but the picture says, "Boy shot"
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Oh my god.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
And so my mother was always terrified that something was going to happen, but she never vocalized, she never told me about it.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
She was not terrified of you; she was terrified that something was going to happen.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
She was terrified that something was going to happen to me, that I was going to be killed or something like that. They—eventually, they could no longer get employment. The way in which the white community tried to pressure them into stopping me was to make it impossible for them to make a living and that is why they had to move to New York. My mother moved first, my father came after them, and then my sister, so by the time that I was paroled, they were on Long Island, and I was paroled to New York.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Did they live there for the rest of their lives?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Yeah, they lived there for the rest of their life. [Quinton says with some sadness] My mother always wanted to come back home, but she never did. When I was tried, Judge Mallard did not want to accept the fact that I was a native North Carolinian. No self-respecting—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
North Carolinian would do this.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Would do what I was doing. And so, it was easy when I was out, that I be gone, so that is why. And I was on parole for five years, so.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
So he knew the arrangement that you would be paroled to New York.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
No, I think that Terry Sanford, John Ehle was an associate of Terry Sanford. I think—John Ehle had done the book —I think they decided before Terry Sanford left office as governor, that one of the things that he would do was to get us out of prison. 5 5 John Ehle, an author and assistant to Terry Sanford in his administration, wrote a book documenting this event entitled, "The Freemen" But he did not make any—I mean anybody who praises Terry Sanford for his great openness, he made great liberal stance by simply wiping the slate clean, he went through the legal processes of having us paroled, but paroling us somewhere else. Now, they did work to get us—both me and John in school because were still the ones. Lou, I think had finished, so he got a job in Philadelphia. Pat was no longer a student, so he got work in Boston. So they made sure that we were either gainfully employed or in a school. Wisconsin accepted me two weeks after school had begun, so obviously somebody was influencing somebody there. So that is how we got out of prison—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
So did you have a semester left when you went to Wisconsin?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
A semester? Yeah right. [Laughter]
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Well, you said three and a half years, I don't know.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Well, I did three and a half years, but I lost twenty-four credits, I lost more than that.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
So you had a year—no, no, no.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
I had quite, I had two years—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Oh, in the transfer process.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
So, I was in Wisconsin from 64 to 67.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Okay, and at that point, it was no activism, you were just concentrating—
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Well, at first, I was still active, there is no way to take the activism out, one of the earliest things was to organize a—I was with the student human relation council there, and I helped organize a trip to the South for students to, so that they could talk to people who were engaged in the civil rights movement here, in North Carolina and I did get permission to come back to the state to do that.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
What did you eventually get a degree in?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Trouble, no— [Laughter] Social and Political Philosophy.