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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Joseph Califano, April 5, 1991. Interview L-0125. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Evaluation of OCR's role in enforcing southern desegregation of higher education

Califano assesses his role in the Office of Civil Rights and the difficulties of federal intervention in the South. Again Califano notes the impact of the large number of black colleges on North Carolina politicians' acceptance of desegregation in higher education.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Joseph Califano, April 5, 1991. Interview L-0125. 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

Well, I just don'tߞI'd have to go back into it. I mean, with the things we could have done better, I'm sure there were things. But I think under the circumstances we did it about as well as we could. In my own mind I always had misgivings about having a federal district judge sitting in Washington desegregating school districts in eleven states, or whatever it was, around the country, and the ability to do that intelligently and fairly. Two, I never understood the kind of wholesale resistanceߞI mean, you know, I sent Tatel downߞwe hadߞyou know, I sent Tatel and somebody else down there to go visit these black schools because I thought if we could get North Carolina citizens to see the dramatic difference in quality, I mean, they were both separate and unequal, that we might be able to get a little support from them. And thirdly, this is not a misgiving but I, you know, I would not underestimate the added difficulty brought about by two things: One, the large number of blacks and black colleges involved, which clearly increased the resistance of Bill Friday and his board, and the white establishment down there. And secondly, the anger of North Carolina financial community and tobacco community over the anti-smoking campaign, which made it very difficult for politicians like Jim Hunt, who's basically a responsible person, not basically, he is a responsible person and a good governor. And I think Friday was a very good university chancellor. But it made it very difficult, if not impossible, for Hunt to seem to be dealing with me. You know, whereas, I think in Virginia I was dealing with Miles [Mills] Godwin, who was a, you know, had been a very much more conservative than Friday, or Hunt, much more opposed to desegregating, but in two or three phone conversations we had a deal. And thatߞbut he didn't have any, you know, I wasn't carrying any baggage in Virginia, any added baggage.
The black colleges, of course, had a certain set of vested interests here.
Well, absolutely. And that created its own set of problems that I didn't mention that. But that was true everywhere. Now, maybe the numbers in North Carolina made that a little more difficult. That was true everywhere. They had their own bureaucracies. They wanted to run their own universities. They were all scared they'd get swallowed up.