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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, November 19, 1990. Interview L-0048. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Differences between student activists of the 1950s and 1960s

Pollitt contrasts student involvement in social issues between the 1950s and 1960s, using the University of North Carolina's Campus Y as a microcosm of student activism. In the 1950s, the Campus Y focused on service projects, while in the 1960s, the Campus Y engaged in more radical direct action efforts.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, November 19, 1990. Interview L-0048. 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

Oh, yes. That's very obvious. We were kindred souls, so it was easy to strike up a good friendship. She was very open. She was always very open to everybody. But she was very open to me about our common concerns which were student involvement and trying to do something about the segregated campus and the segregated community we were living in. And it was again, the late fifties, which were characterized by student apathy. I didn't think it was, but I think there's always ten to fifteen percent of the students who are concerned with social justice and the problems beyond them. That was what was going on at the Y in many ways. They were nothing big. Claude was the administrator and fund-raiser and he had his concerns, but he'd already retired from Northwestern, I think, where he had been the Y director. And we didn't have the energies that Anne did. And they organized programs to go visit the mental people at Butner and the orphans; the disadvantaged people within a twenty mile area were visited by Y people who would go out and just walk with them or talk with them or give them a touch of the outside. And I think that was maybe the first of the major energies in '57, '58 and '59, or in that period. It was social service types of things. And I remember they had a car and the car broke down. It broke down every time they would go to Butner. Their biggest problem was to buy a second hand car that would get the students there and back.
How did you see the campus Y change during Anne's role at the campus Y? How did you perceive it? It was always a social service organization and somewhat the center of campus, but how did that change? How did she make a unique influence, do you believe?
Well, I think the Y changed as the conditions changed. I forget the exact date when we started to integrate the public schools here, but as soon as they did, they started with the little tots, the first and second grades, maybe. And the Big Brother and Big Sister and the tutorial programs started, so the people from the Y would go out and they would adopt somebody and sit with them after school and review their lessons and be a role model and an inspiration. So, that was going on. The black schools didn't have much in the way of a library, and I remember to get an encyclopedia, fifty volumes of an encyclopedia, we got that, you know. That was earlier, and then came the tutorials which was about the same time. And then in the early sixties, the more radical energies started. We had the Greensboro sit-in. It took place in February or something of 1960, possibly, and it spread rapidly. It was on a Monday that they sat in, the four freshmen, and then Tuesday they went back with ten and Wednesday they were there with twenty. Then the white hooligans came in and there was a bomb threat on Friday and then they declared a cooling off period. But by that Wednesday or so, the students at N.C. Central were sitting in and Fayetteville State. We still had a black high school and we had our first sit-in on Wednesday or Thursday of that very first week. And the basketball team had won a game against whoever their main rivals were and after they won, which they won in Chapel Hill, the team went down to the drugstore. They usually went to a drugstore to get a coke and they had to stand up. They couldn't sit down. So, they decided to sit down. [Laughter] That was the first sit-in. And then they chased them out. They went across the street to the bus station which then had a snack bar and some things to get a coke there. They went into the white waiting room and the guy chased them out with a gun. It was snowing, so they had some snowballs throwing around and then they went home. But they went to their advisors, "What do we do next?" And that was the start of the Ad Hoc Committee for the public accommodation law or whatever it was.