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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Floyd B. McKissick Sr., May 31, 1989. Interview L-0040. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

NAACP tactics for desegregating post-secondary schools

McKissick describes both the NAACP strategy for desegregating higher education and his own participation in desegregation cases.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Floyd B. McKissick Sr., May 31, 1989. Interview L-0040. 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

If I may, how would you compare on the one hand why you selected the University of North Carolina in particular to try to desegregate, and the second part of the question, how the University of North Carolina fit into the sort of overall strategy about desegregation, and what the attitudes of the administration seemed to be.
Well first of all, I had made applications to go to law school to about seven law schools and had been admitted to Cleveland, Western Reserve. I think at that time Fordham Law School, I had been admitted. But each one had given you a time to come, and you would have been out of school a half a year because the list was so long. Howard University had a long list. All the black kids in the country were just about going to Howard, and to get on that list you'd have to wait three years before you could get in school. So it was decided, here's North Carolina right here. We knew that North Carolina Central, the law school there was not comparable to the University of North Carolina. We had been over there and had seen the University of North Carolina and saw the difference. They didn't know what we were doing over there or anything, but we went over to see the difference and we made these comparisons. At that time the NAACP had done some studies, and we were ready for this suit. It was just decided that suits were being brought all over, in many states in the South, at this time to desegregate the law schools, the professional schools. And we decided that we were going to go ahead and crack the law school and crack it now. It was just, you had top students. We could have got in school anywhere. It was just a matter that we were black, and the University, one of the worst things they were doing was not replying to correspondence or just ignoring it or throwing it away, which had occurred for two years in a row. So it was then decided that a suit was the possible way.
Within the strategy of using law suits to desegregate the University, do you remember participating in any discussions about tactics in order to pressure the University to accept black students?
We decided that a law school was going to be the best way. There had been some people that knew, there were some blacks in the community who knew some whites over there, and there had been meetings among those groups of blacks and whites who met together, I think the Southern Conference for Human Welfare at that time, headed by Clark Forman out of New Orleans. There were other black and white groups who met. Congress of Racial Equality, the NAACP, black and white church groups, particularly Charles Jones of Chapel Hill was one of my strong supporters. Had certainly supported me and at a time when I really needed the support, was there with me at the University of North Carolina.
Was he a white man?
Yes, he was a Presbyterian minister, Charles Jones. Yes, he was. I think he's still alive today. And there was another lady, I was trying to think of her name, at the YMCA there that supported those black kids that were going after we came on the campus. It was not a friendly arrival when we got on the campus by any means.