Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, November 19, 1990. Interview L-0048. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Anne Queen provided a safe haven for black students

Pollitt describes the leadership tactics of Anne Queen. Queen, director of the Campus Y, cultivated a safe integrated space for black students. Her home served as a conduit for the social fermentation of ideas. Queen often accommodated other's contrary habits, a recurring theme in this interview.

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

CINDY CHEATHAM:
Do you recall what Anne's role was in all this was?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Anne was a behind the scenes participant. Let me add one more dimension. That is the sit-ins, which was Pat Kusick and that crowd. But that was a year or two later. We had the first wave of sit-ins and maybe forty or fifty percent of the downtown businesses agreed to serve everybody, but the others didn't. And that was the second wave which was the John Dunn, Pat Kusick crowd. And that's where people got arrested and all that sort of thing. Now, what Anne did during all this, first of all, she was the home. The Y was the home for the black students. They sold stocks in the Y building, so there was a logical reason for everybody to go there, and then on each side they sold the newspapers and then there were the lounge and the offices. And then upstairs there were some offices all connected with the Y and good things. But that's the one place where the handful of blacks could go in and be treated respectfully and with warmth and with friendship. And that was the one place where they could achieve some prominence. Kellis Parker, I think, was his name, might have been the first secretary or the treasurer or something of the Y. But the blacks were given the opportunity to achieve leadership positions at the Y when most other places were closed to them. So Anne Queen really helped integrate the University. She was friendly to all these people and gave them things to do. They could go out and help tutor or they could do this and that. And then she had a Speaker's Bureau that went on and on and on and on and almost anybody who was worth hearing was invited down here by the Y and they would have a program of some sort. Then there would be the reception which would be open to the public, generally, and then the next reception at Anne's house. She had a very small little cottage, very unpretentious, but she could squeeze twenty-five or thirty people in for dinner, which she always prepared, you know. And she was a teetotaler and she always put me in charge of the liquor. And so I would bring the liquor and mix the drinks. She wouldn't do that, you know. She didn't mind having liquor in the house and she didn't mind if other people drank, but she wanted no part of it. She didn't want to do it.
CINDY CHEATHAM:
That seems to be quite a characteristic of hers that she was very open to other's people's ways, but she was definitely committed to her own. Can you comment on that maybe more?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Well, she had her own standards which were extremely high. I can't give you any other illustration off-hand. But she would invite the black students to her house and that would be maybe the first time in their lives they'd ever been invited to a white person's house. And in there, they would be treated like anybody else was treated. I remember Floyd McKissick was the head of CORE and was a very frequent visitor. And Sloane Coffin, the minister, was down there. Al Lowenstein, I think he had been active in the Y when he'd been a student here and he would be brought down. She liked Michael Harrington who was the head of the Social Democratic group and was very much up on poverty, the war on poverty, which was the Kennedy years in the sixties. That came at the same time. And I don't know whether Sarge Shriver came or not, but any time there was a Peace Corps recruiter they'd be at the Y and then they'd be at Anne's house and there'd be people invited in. I don't know if she had a special fund. I doubt it. But that was her role. Her role was to be extremely hospitable to all the minorities and that includes all the foreigners. We never had many foreigners come here like they do at Michigan or Cornell or Harvard or something. But they were always welcomed at the Y and it was in that connection that Anne started the International Bazaar where everybody would wear their native garb and do their native dance or their native instruments or their native crafts and their native foods. So there were four or five, maybe ten, places to eat something and you could buy things. And it was a money raiser, but predominantly a show place for people to demonstrate their native pride and to get to know each others. And in the international area, it was a big thing to go to the UN. She would go up and later somebody else would take up a bus load of kids. Frank Porter Graham was then at the United Nations. He was high up and he would introduce and talk to directors and so on and show them around. A lot of the kids had never been to New York City and so they wouldn't waste their time seeing the Statue of Liberty. They went down to Greenwich Village and East Greenwich Village and would see X rated movies and get exposed to a part of society which many of them had never dreamed of before. So, it was to see the U.N. and to see a major city and see how people live in a major city. I believe you could drive all the way to New York, at that time, in ten or twelve or fourteen hours. The first town you get to in Virginia, they had stopped to get something to eat at the bus station. They wouldn't serve them because a quarter of them were black. So they went up to picket there for a few days. So, she was the hostess and the friend and tried to provide opportunities for people who needed opportunities. So, that was her role...