Title: Oral History Interview with Pat Cusick, June 19, 1989. Interview L-0043.
Interviewer: Dean, Pamela
Interviewee: Cusick, Pat
Abstract: Pat Cusick discusses how his educational and military experiences altered his views on race. His relationships with blacks and exposure to racially progressive ideas provided a basis for his later civil rights activism. He was dissatisfied with the state of liberalism on the University of North Carolina campus. He also comments on what he saw as the hypocrisy and civil masks of Chapel Hill liberalism, which in his view prevented effective social progress. Cusick describes his participation in civil rights demonstrations as part of the anti-war Student Peace Union. Through his anti-war efforts, Cusick became aware of other social movements on campus. He laments his idealistic belief in what he came to view as the liberal facade of Chapel Hill. He regrets not pressuring the University to do more, though his activities did result in jail time. Cusick describes the formative impact his prison time had in stirring up his radicalism, emboldening his support of nonviolent strategies, and connecting with other like-minded activists. He explains how his stance against segregated prisons led to a lengthy hunger strike. Governor Terry Sanford's slow response in desegregating public facilities was a disappointment to him. He discusses the massive legal trial against civil rights demonstrators and his subsequent departure from North Carolina. Cusick moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where he became aware of northern racial prejudice, and where he engaged in social and economic justice endeavors. It was not until Massachusetts enacted a policy in 1988 against gay adoption that Cusick publicly came out as a gay man. He credits the influence of the civil rights movement with helping him come to terms with his sexuality.