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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 >>

The early process of desegregation

Intriguingly, McKissick labels his experiences the "first black syndrome," as an integration process more beneficial to whites than blacks. Early black pioneers in desegregation opened the path for further desegregation, but largely initiated a process of whites to accept blacks socially.

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

Can you recall any other outstanding recollections about your experiences that summer at the University of North Carolina?
I don't know that I can recall any. I do recall that just before we were getting ready to take exams in the course that I was taking, and it was taught by Professor Voight, who was said to be a German who taught us sales. About a week before, I had been in sales class and had been called upon to speak, answer questions, and I'd always answer pretty correctly. I kept up with my homework even though I was working. And just before we got ready to take the examination, about a week before, one night I came up to my room and a couple of fellows were in the room, and we started talking about sales, and then a couple of more came in. And about the middle of the summer I think the attitudes had changed. There used to be a choir who used to holler "nigger lover." During the summer I think that it was prevalent on a regular basis, but by the end of the summer it had faded down. And then the kids in my class, who came in the room to study with me, said, "You know, we want to study with you because we think that we can each other." They had reached that point. And I became to feel much better. I knew then that I certainly had lost a lot of the inferiority complex that I had previously had.
How would you say you were able to smooth the way for other black students to attend the University?
I think that when those who were first, I was not the only one. Sure, I was the first one in a sense, but there were others doing this summer session. This was the only session where there were blacks. With me at that time I think was Lassiter, taking that class. There was another class in which another black was in. I think that one, the mess hall, not the mess hall, it was Lenoir Hall, had received its first black and then it was over with. I think they have to go through the first black syndrome. It's a syndrome for white people. Have you ever seen a black eat. They think all kinds of things. I think all these stereotypes are thrown out of the window after they undergo their experience with the first black, being associated with them. So I think that those of us who went there first, cleared up the minds of whites more than those of blacks. There were few blacks coming after that, I mean relatively few were coming in, but the door had been made easier for them to come because they would no longer create the [unclear]...