Title: Oral History Interview with Howard Fuller, December 14, 1996. Interview O-0034.
Interviewer: Ceremonies, Master of
Interviewee: Fuller, Howard
Abstract: The North Carolina Fund, a forerunner to President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, served as a bold experiment in fostering cooperation between government agencies and the private sector during the early 1960s. Along with federal, state, and institutional support, the Fund relied on the support of student volunteers: between 1963 and 1968, over 350 student volunteers traveled to rural and urban communities across North Carolina to help implement the Fund's initiatives. Howard Fuller worked as one of these student volunteers in Durham, North Carolina. His experiences as an activist for low-income black residents shaped his lifelong work and involvement in anti-poverty campaigns. Fuller came to realize the importance of training local residents to become economically self-sufficient and politically active in order to effect long-lasting structural changes in United States society. In 1968, he helped establish the Malcolm X Liberation University in Durham. After the University's decline, Fuller moved to Wisconsin, where he served as the superintendent for the Milwaukee public schools from 1991 to 1995. In 1995, Fuller resigned and founded the Institute for the Transformation of Learning (ITL) at Marquette University to provide assistance to charter schools. Fuller's support of parental choice and school vouchers confused his former activist allies, but remained consistent with his belief that local communities best obtain equitable resources with political power and choice. Because policymakers' memory of the North Carolina Fund increasingly began to fade, Dr. James Leloudis, of the Department of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Dr. Robert Korstad, of Duke University's Sanford Institute of Public Policy, designed an oral history course titled "Race, Poverty, and the North Carolina Fund and Its Legacy" in the fall of 1996. Drs. Leloudis and Korstad developed the "No Easy Walk" conference composed from students' interviews with former Fund participants and current policymakers. Fuller gave the closing speech at the conference on December 14, 1996. He offered suggestions on how to inspire continued and increased activism among the younger and older generations. Fuller's remarks reflect his beliefs about the connection between economic and political power.