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Oral History Interview with Harvey E. Beech, September 25, 1996. Interview J-0075. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • 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.
  • Self-determination and self-reliance in the start of Beech's collegiate career
  • Jim Crow facilities prompt interest in a legal career
  • Beech's role in the NAACP case against the UNC law school
  • Mental effects of segregation
  • Social challenges faced as one of the first black students at UNC
  • Emotional memories of the overt racism at UNC during desegregation
  • Beech's formative practical legal education
  • Lifelong connection to Kenneth Lee begins at UNC
  • Evaluation of the O.J. Simpson trial
  • Support for historically black colleges and universities
  • Assesment of the black-centered objectives of UNC's Black Student Movement
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  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • 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.
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.