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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James Slade, February 23, 1997. Interview R-0019. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Attending the recently desegregated UNC-Chapel Hill medical school

Slade remembers his decision to turn down a position at Meharry Medical College, one of two medical schools in the country that had accepted black students, and instead attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which had only recently admitted African Americans. Racist professors and limits on what black students could do posed challenges.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James Slade, February 23, 1997. Interview R-0019. 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

JAMES SLADE:
Earlier, North Carolina would supplement black students to go out of the state. When I applied to medical school, it was 1952. At that time, I also applied for out of state funds, because North Carolina was just beginning to accept black students. In fact, there was only one black student accepted before I was. Before I was notified whether I had received any out of state funds, I had been accepted at UNC. I did get an offer to go out of state, to Meharry Medical College in Tennessee, but I turned it down. I think shortly after that they discontinued that program.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
What made you choose UNC over Meharry?
JAMES SLADE:
I could say it was closer to home, but not really. When you're young, you don't mind challenging things. I felt that I could do as good a job as those guys at Duke and Carolina and other places. It was a challenge. I applied to about five medical schools, and got accepted to two. Even if I had gotten some funds to go to Meharry, I didn't really want to accept it on that basis. It was supposed to be for when you couldn't go to medical school in North Carolina, yet they were willing to give it to me to go out of the state, which I felt wasn't the way it should have been done, so I turned it down and went to UNC. At UNC, things were pretty good. There were a few instances. There were only two of us at the time. The other student was named Edward Diggs, he was two years ahead of me. He helped me over some of the ropes and things. Some of the guys in my class would come over and study with me, so it wasn't that bad. There was one professor who thought blacks were inferior. I will say that in his grading he was fair, so he didn't carry that over into his classroom. The only weak spot in training at Chapel Hill was in OB, because they wouldn't allow the black students to do deliveries, except on black patients, and there weren't very many black patients in OB at Chapel Hill. Even so, I learned obstetrics, even though that wasn't what I wanted to do. I did OK academically, but from the practical standpoint, it was limited.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
That professor that you mentioned, was it generally known that he thought blacks were inferior?
JAMES SLADE:
He would write in the school paper, he didn't try to keep it secret.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Was there ever any kind of personal competition between you?
JAMES SLADE:
In the classroom, if you hadn't read the article in the school paper, you wouldn't have known it. He was fair, he didn't try to bring that into the classroom at all. He graded you on what you did, so I didn't feel that was a handicap at all. Aside from weakness in obstetrics, everything else was pretty straightforward, and pediatrics was great. I eventually went into pediatrics.