Title: Oral History Interview with Harvey E. Beech, September 25, 1996. Interview J-0075.
Interviewer: Foye, Anita
Interviewee: Beech, Harvey E.
Subjects: Family--North Carolina--Social life and customs--20th century Lawyers--North Carolina--History--20th century North Carolina--Race relations--20th century African American lawyers--North Carolina--University of North Carolina (179 Beech, Harvey E.
Abstract: Harvey E. Beech was born in Kinston, North Carolina, in 1923, the youngest of five children. Although Beech's father could not read or write, he saved his money and opened barbershops throughout the Kinston community. His business acumen afforded most of his children the opportunity to attend college. His youngest son, Harvey, however, was sent to Harris Barber College in Raleigh, North Carolina, since his older siblings' education had taken its toll on their father's bank account. Harvey's academic drive and passion for education led him to pursue a college degree. He earned enough money to attend Morehouse College, and his self-reliance, independence, and passion for changing social injustices propelled his interest in a legal career. To earn money for law school, he promoted black entertainers and opened a general store. In the early 1950s, Thurgood Marshall asked Beech to join a pending case against the University of North Carolina School of Law. Beech joined the case, along with J. Kenneth Lee. In 1951, Beech and Lee, along with James Lassiter, Floyd McKissick, and James Walker, became the first African American students to enroll at the UNC law school. Beech candidly discusses the psychological impact of desegregating an all-white institution, including his anger at having to give up his swimming pool privileges because of his race. He evaluates the strength of racism in American society, while adamantly arguing that the abandonment of racial discrimination and racial identities would eliminate barriers among all races and ethnicities.