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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Julius L. Chambers, June 18, 1990. Interview L-0127. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Fears and problems confronted by black college leaders during desegregation

Chambers discusses historically black college leaders' fears of desegregating black post-secondary institutions, a theme that reappears later in the interview. UNC's predominately white Board of Governors determined the goals and direction of black colleges. As a result, historically black colleges failed to establish distinctive programs which would have created greater funds and stability for future generations.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Julius L. Chambers, June 18, 1990. Interview L-0127. 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.

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WILLIAM LINK:
What was the position of the traditionally black institutions toward the question of desegregation? Did you getߞin a certain sense, strong programmatic changes could be interpreted as threatening the integrity of traditionally black institutions, or so the argument has gone. I've heard that before. I'm wondering what your perspective is on that?
JULIUS L. CHAMBERS:
Well, I think there was sort of a problem in the leadership of traditionally black institutions. One was: With the restructuring, they were under Bill Friday, and the Board of Governors, and one does only so much when one's job is at risk. I think that most of the chancellors of the traditionally black institutions really wanted better programs. And really wanted more funding. And they really wanted the development of library resources, among other things. And I think that they wanted to see a more integrated student body and faculty. In the actual demographics. They wanted, on the other hand, to ensure that those institutions would remain open to provide educational opportunities for minority students. Some had some apprehension aboutߞwell, A&T, or Central becoming ninety percent, or 100 percent white institutions. And what that would mean in terms of the future role of that institution, the opportunities of minority students. In other words, a split personality that they had to deal with. And many of them were limited in what they could say. What theyߞI know, for example, at A&T, the Engineering Department really wanted to become competitive with North Carolina State and Charlotte. Architecture department. And that a private corporation had offered to provide funding for that type of doctoral program that would make that A&T program unique, that corporation wanted to produce more minorities in engineer and architects. And A&T was unable to accept that grant, because that wasn't the role that Bill Friday or the University wanted A&T to play. I know that Elizabeth City really wanted to develop as a four-year, at least, institution in Elizabeth City, which was competing with the College of Albermarle, as I recall. And they were limits on what the then chancellor of Elizabeth City could advocate, for that kind of thing. I know that Fayetteville State wanted to become the regional institution for vet tech. And wanted to be the institution to provide education for the folk at Fort Bragg. And how Fayetteville State was prohibited from doing that, at least during the [inaudible] , because whites at Fort Bragg, for example, didn't want a black institution directing that much of a program. And I remembered how the board brought inߞwhat is itߞChapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte, and North Carolina State, to teach certain programs to allay the concerns that whites at Fort Bragg, for example, had raised about Fayetteville playing this dominant role. I remember what was attempted at Pembroke in terms of having the unique role that it could play. And how the chancellor there was stymied. I understand since that there have been some changes in that the Fayetteville is doing a little bit more than what it was allowed to do back in the seventies. But even so, it is still limited what it has been allowed to do. So the chancellors at the traditionally black institutions, operating under the problems or inhibitions that I've mentioned, really wanted to see those institutions become specialty schools, in the sense that, "I offer the particular type of masters, or doctoral degree, in this area. And that would be unique. And I won't to be in competition with schools that are eight, ten, thirty miles away. And will allow my school to become a real significant part of the University system." And, I think, among the present chancellors that the interest is still there.