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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Pat Cusick, June 19, 1989. Interview L-0043. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Cusick's jail experiences and division between older white liberals and young black students

Cusick compares his Hillsborough and Chapel Hill jail experiences. He describes jail as a space in which demonstrators could engage in productive planning. Soon after the activists' arrests, the local movement splintered among young black students and older white liberals. Cusick discusses how white liberals resented black hijacking of the civil rights movement.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Pat Cusick, June 19, 1989. Interview L-0043. 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

What was the jail there like?
The pits. All the jails were. Well, the Chapel Hill jail was clean. The Hillsborough jail was kind of the pits. It was very interesting—I don't know whether it was then or another time. I was there so much. I think it was then, but Harold Foster and I were cell mates. And sometimes when you were in there, you'd be in a two person cell with thirty people. But we ended up with two people. So he was the editor of the student newspaper at North Carolina Central and very well read. We'd both read Baldwin's Another Country. So we got into this week long discussion about that. He was very good for me because he was very militant. It was very good, those discussions and stuff. So that was the first sit-in. Then soon after that the movement split which I think was inevitable, because we'd have these meetings and you would have University professors who, as you know, professors love to talk and do things right. So they'd make motions and amendments to motions and get into real quibbling about the language and the qualifiers and all this, which was very important for someone who had a lot of education. To the kids from Lincoln High School, which was the black high school then, the black teenagers, they couldn't see that at all and then they were the ones who were actually going out and getting arrested. So what you had was the white liberals debating and the black kids actually going out and getting arrested. The music, the kids liked the singing. They had elaborate hand clapping patterns and stuff. The white professors usually could not keep time that well. It was different beat. [Laughter] They were not used to that type—there were a lot of cultural, as well as maybe even political, but mostly cultural. Then I think too, some of the professors had a long history of being staunch supporters of civil rights which was not easy in the South. But it was their movement. Then here are these kids who hadn't even been to college. Some of them hadn't even finished high school who were saying it was their movement. So there was a resentment. There was a resentment, not to get off on that topic because that whole type of thing is even present, I think, a lot today.